03/12/2024, 14.48
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Rashida's ordeal: ten years in chains in a forced marriage

by Shafique Khokhar

Kidnapped at the age of 13 and forced to marry a Muslim, a Christian girl from a brick kiln family suffered severe abuse. She was segregated when she rebelled over her husband’s second marriage. “I want to see my children. I want justice!” she said. For Joseph Jansen, this is “the true face of the reality” minorities continue to experience in Pakistan.

Okara (AsiaNews) – Violence against women remains a major issue in Pakistan. The story of Rashida Bibi is a case in point.

The young woman from a humble family worked in a brick kiln in the village of Okara; after a decade, she fled an abusive relationship.

Her nightmare began more than ten years, when she was abducted and forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim man, terrible experiences that left marks on her body.

“Muhammad Riaz kidnapped me on 23 March 2013, when I was just 13 years old. My parents tried their best but they could not rescue me,” she said.

“He forcibly married me and converted me to Islam. In 10 years, I gave birth to five children. But he always called me by the derogatory term ‘Choori’.[*] I stayed for my children.”

Recently, “he wanted to marry another girl, I resisted. Then on 28 December 2023, he beat me up very hard and cut my nose, cut my hair, and made a cut on my private part. Then, he confined me for two months.

“In February 2024 I managed to escape from his confinement and returned to my parents.” Afterwards, “Muhammad Riaz came to my house, beat up my mother and me. Her arm was fractured.

“People from the street intervened and saved us. Police came to the scene and arrested him, but on the same day, they freed him and did not register a FIR,[†]” she explained.

At her husband’s place, “she was segregated, and was not even allowed to go to the bathroom. They only provided me with food once a day. I got sick in confinement but they never called a doctor and gave me no medicine.”

Her husband’s “mother used to abuse me,” while “his family hated me. At night, they used to tie my feet and hands and when Riaz came from work, he beat me and abused me at night.

“I have three sons and two daughters; I want to see my children. I want justice!”

Joseph Jansen, a human rights activist, calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this case.

“Rashida’s case is the true face of the reality behind all abductions and forced marriages of minority girls,” he said.

“It shows that they abduct and marry underage girls just for their sexual desires and when they are fed up, they behave like monsters. These girls never get respect or love,” he lamented. “We urge the government to take this case seriously and provide justice to this ill-fated girl.”

Jansen also noted that existing laws aimed at addressing and preventing such atrocities have proven inadequate because they have not been fully implemented. Overcoming these shortcomings requires a combination of strong political and administrative will.

[*] Choori or churi, choora or chura are derogatory terms used by Muslim fundamentalists for sanitation workers.

[†] First Information Report.

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The Church in Karachi demands concrete actions against forced marriages
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Christian girls continue to be abducted. The latest case involves a 14-year-old in Lahore converted under threat
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