03/28/2023, 12.32
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Faisalabad, 13-year-old Christian girl kidnapped for marriage returns home

by Shafique Khokhar

Kidnapped by a Muslim trader, after three months she was tracked down by the judiciary and sent back to her family. Satisfaction of human rights activists for this solved case. But the problem is widespread: the need for a law against this type of forced conversion has been reiterated.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Three months after her abduction, 13 year old Christian girl Hoorab Masih has been traced and the judiciary has finally allowed her to return home. In late December, she had been kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam by Muhammad Usman, a Muslim shopkeeper from the village of Chak 7, near Faisalabad, Punjab. After being interrogated by the magistrates, Hoorab was finally able to re-embrace her father Basharat and her brothers.

On 28 December 2022, Hoorab Masih had gone to Muhammad Mustafa's grocery shop (where Usman worked) as she used to do to help the family, as her mother had been missing for several years. That day, Usman abducted her and drove her away from Faisalabad to Chiniot, where she was raped, converted and forced to marry her abductor. After his arrest, the perpetrator confessed that the marriage to the girl was not legally valid, and so on 11 February 2023, the union was declared false and illegal by the Chiniot Municipal Commission.

Before returning home, the girl was sent to a women's shelter for women victims of abuse and violence (Dar-ul-Aman), where she remained until 24 March, when she expressed before the Faisalabad judiciary her wish to remain with her father.

The case has once again prompted many human rights activists to lobby the government for laws to punish forced conversion attempts perpetrated against religious minorities, and for the amendment of the Child Marriage Act, which still dates back to 1929. The aim is to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18, for both boys and girls, and to declare null and void unions with minors. Hoorab's is in fact not the only case of grooming, abduction and forced conversion of young women, as human rights defender Lala Robin Daniel explained.

The president of the Voice for Justice organisation, Joseph Jansen, drew attention to the need to openly condemn these crimes of coercion, since they affect young minors who do not have the capacity to make such decisions on their own. Activist Aneel Edger also pointed out that the lack of institutional response allows perpetrators to escape justice: in the case of Hoorab Masih, the girl's trail was lost due to inadequate police searches.

Finally, women's rights activist Nadia Stephen stated that it is imperative to ensure that victims have access to a fair trial, which will have an immediate effect on these criminals and allow young women to redeem themselves.

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