01/31/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to Morning Star News, advocates for a 12-year-old Christian girl found chained in the home of a 45-year-old Muslim man in Pakistan fear he will be granted custody of the girl by local courts. This comes after the Christian girl testified she had converted to Islam and married the man of her own free will.
On December 5, 2020, police in Faisalabad recovered Farah Shaheen, a 12-year-old Christian girl who was reportedly abducted from her family in June. Human rights activists reported Shaheen had marks of abuse on her body and was transferred to a shelter home by local courts.
“Officials first brought [Shaheen] to the police station after negotiations with the criminals,” Lala Robin Daniel, a local activist, told the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). “Her ankles and feet were wounded. They were bandaged at the police station. She was in trauma and couldn’t talk about the torture.”
Shaheen’s parents reported to police that three Muslims, including 45-year-old Khizar Hayat, abducted Shaheen from their home on June 25. After the abduction, Shaheen’s parents claim their daughter was forcefully married to Hayat and converted to Islam.
“Her marriage, forceful conversion, and injured feet speak of the horror,” Daniel later posted on social media. “Underage girls from religious minorities are unsafe due to faulty and incomplete lawmaking. Police, judiciary, and weak laws make fun of poor parents.”
On January 23, Farah told a judge she had willingly converted to Islam and married Hayat. This testimony shocked Farah’s parents who claim she is under pressure to testify in her abductor’s favor.
“She was kept chained and forced to work in a cattle yard since the time she was taken from us,” Asif Masih, Farah’s father, told Morning Star News. “I am still in shock as to why Farah testified in her abductor’s favor.”
According to a 2014 study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted every year. Many of the victims are minors. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
The issue of religion is injected into cases of sexual assault to place victims from religious minority communities at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.