Abduction, forced marriages and forced conversions

Munich : Abduction, forced marriages and forced conversions are becoming a daily reality in the life of Christians in the Muslim-majority Pakistan. The latest case has emerged amidst an increasing number of forcible conversions of girls belonging to the minority communities.

The latest victim is a 14-year-old girl named Maira Shahbaz from the town of Madina, near Faisalabad. She was abducted at gun point, held hostage and later forced to marriage and conversion to Islam. Her forced marriage to her Muslim kidnapper had been declared lawful by the Lahore High Court, who claimed he had married her presenting a fake marriage certificate. The court did not take into account that Maira Shahbaz is a minor and that she was kidnapped and forcibly forced to convert to Islam before marrying her “abductor”. The court asked her to live with the criminal who abducted her and she was advised by the Judge to be “a good wife”. The court even discounted birth certificates and school records that proved that she was a minor. Lawyer Khalil Tahir Sandhu, who represented Maira in court said, he would appeal the decision, first at Lahore High Court and, if this fails, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

She is not the first minority woman in Pakistan that has gone through this ordeal and certainly won’t be the last. Last year it was Huma Younus, a Christian girl who was kidnapped and forced to marry her captor. As per the ACT International report, she has been confined to the four walls of one room in the abductor’s house and has become pregnant due to the incessant sexual violence perpetrated by her abductor. She had the same fate as Maira Shahbaz where the court decided in favour of the abductor. The case was due to be heard on appeal at Sindh High Court on 13th July but the court is shut because of Covid-19 and the hearing has been postponed.

Every year nearly 1000 poor women and girls are abducted from Pakistan’s minority communities, converted to Islam and forced to marry their captors. Many a times these girls end up at slave-sex markets.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity which is supporting victims of injustice in Pakistan, providing legal and paralegal aid and support for individuals, especially women, the family advocate of Maira Shahbaz,  Mr. Lala Daniel said: “If the police and the courts know that people in the West are paying attention they will be under more pressure to follow the law rather than give into extremist groups who are not favourable to Christians.” Asia Bibi blasphemy case is a true example for this as it received a worldwide attention.

We need justice for Maira Shahbaz. A bishop in South India, Jacob Muricken, the auxiliary bishop in Palai, Kerala has started a campaign for 14-year-old Catholic Maira Shahbaz under the motto “Justice for M”. Will the plight and anguish of these young girls like Maira Shahbaz and Huma Younas be heard? Would they be served justice? Would Malala Yousafzai, the famous teenager activist from Pakistan raise her voice for her sisters? Unfortunately, the international human rights activists and organizations are silent on this matter. One of the least heard voices are the cries of Christians. Do the international community support this cause or are they selective at supporting? Let justice prevail.



With inputs from www.thehindu.comwww.wionnews.com and www.acnuk.org

Loxly Sebastian


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