06/16/2022, 13.52
PAKISTAN
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Kidnapped for forced marriage, 15-year-old Christian girl from Faisalabad is freed

by Shafique Khokhar

Saba was kidnapped in May by two Muslim men who wanted to force her to convert to Islam. Christian groups thank the police, but asks for a special committee to deal with the problem. Protests by civil society groups help secure the girl’s release.

 

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – On behalf of the local Christian community, the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan (NMAP) expressed satisfaction for the release of Saba, a 15-year-old Christian girl kidnapped on 20 May by two Muslim men.

The girl returned safely home to her family last week. But her case is not unique. As is often the case in Pakistan, many girls and women from religious minorities are kidnapped in order to be converted to Islam and then forced to marry Muslim men.

Christians and other minority religious groups have repeatedly spoken out against such conversions and forced marriages, which disproportionately affect girls and young women from their communities.

They stress that the biased behaviour of the police and legal authorities is an obstacle to overcoming the problem.

In a letter of thanks to the Faisalabad police for contributing to Saba's release, the NMAP urges the agency to abandon the traditional way in which cases of child abduction are treated.

In most situations, courts drop the case and hand over the victims to their tormentors, disregarding the law, such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which imposes severe penalties on adults who marry minors.

Often the kidnappers are drifters or men with a criminal record; some of them are already married, and the goal of the kidnapping is sexual in nature.

Speaking to AsiaNews, NMAP president Robin Daniel suggests that police set up a special committee at the district level under court supervision to address the issue.

The NMAP held a series of sit-ins to secure Saba's release, as did Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP).

The latter’s president, Naveed Walter, pointed to successful HRFP campaigns to get young women back to their families, like Sheeza Maqsood in 2020, Shahnaz Bibi in 2019, and Nida Sohail in 2017.

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