Today was the first hearing, in the Sindh High Court, of the case of Arzoo Masih. A 13 year old christian girl, whose parents state that she was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and then married against her will to 44 year old, Ali Azhar.
According to the FIR, Arzoo’s father, Raja Lal Masih, told the police that his daughter had been kidnapped from their home, in Karachi’s Railway Colony, on the 13th of October. Two days later, on the 15th of October, the police summoned Arzoo’s family to present them with marriage documents that showed Arzoo was 18, and had willingly consented to convert to Islam and marry Ali Azhar. However, Arzoo’s parents negated the claims that she is 18, and consented to converting her religion and marrying Ali Azhar. They produced her official birth certificate which clearly shows that she is 13 years old.
In 2014, the Sindh Assembly passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which made the minimum marriageable age 18. Therefore, marrying an underage individual is a punishable offence under the law. Activists are demanding that the Sindh government pass a bill against forced conversions, as this is not an isolated incident. According to a, 2014, report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, every year in Pakistan approximately a 1000 christian and hindu women are forced to convert and marry muslim men. The report also found that there is a pattern of christian girls, between the ages of 12-25, being abducted and subsequently being forced to convert and marry their abductors or some third party. The Sindh assembly tabled a bill against forced conversions, in 2016, however to date that bill has not been passed.