Arzoo Raja was abducted from her home in Karachi on October 13
The 13-year-old Christian girl was kidnapped by 44-year-old man while her parents were at work and forced to convert to Islam and marry him
Two days later her 44-year-old ‘husband’ produced a marriage certificate claiming the juvenile is 18
Protests have broken out after a Pakistani court upheld the marriage’s validity
The marriage certificate said she was 18, but the family has a birth certificate showing she is 13
At a court hearing, the husband allegedly ‘held on tightly to her arm’ to stop her reaching her mother, who was not allowed to meet her daughter
Arzoo’s parents have lost their jobs and been threatened by kidnappers since their daughter disappeared.
Protests broke out in Pakistan’s major cities of Karachi and Lahore over the case of a 44-year-old man who kidnapped a 13-year-old Christian girl from her parents home and forced her convert to Islam, and marriage.
Arzoo Raja was abducted from her home in Karachi on October 13, and two days later her abductor produced a marriage certificate claiming she was 18 and had converted to Islam.
The case has led to protests but a Pakistani court has upheld the marriage after her husband claimed she had converted of her own free will.
The 13-year-old girl tried to run to her mother during the court hearing but her ‘husband’ held her in a tight grip to stop her from leaving, it is alleged.
Arzoo’s father Raja said that his daughter had been abducted from the family home in Karachi’s Railway Colony after her parents went to work.
When police contacted the family two days later they said that the ‘husband’ had already obtained a marriage certificate, according to a Christian group called the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
In Pakistan, ‘Often young girls are threatened into giving statements to the court saying they have married and converted to Islam of their own free will,’ said Nasir Saeed, CLAAS UK director.
It is a very sensitive matter for Pakistani Christians but sadly it is all falling on the deaf ears of the politicians and the authorities.
‘It is sad as the Pakistani police and courts have failed to respect their own laws, as well international standards, which are continuing to be ignored especially in forced conversion and forced marriage cases even in the higher courts.’
Arzoo allegedly had her name changed to Arzoo Fatima and a judge claimed that she had converted to Islam of her own free will.
At a court hearing, the husband allegedly ‘held on tightly to her arm’ to stop her reaching her mother, who was not allowed to meet her daughter.
The certificate said she was 18, but the family has a birth certificate showing she is 13.
According to a Catholic organization called Aid to the Church in Need, Arzoo’s parents have lost their jobs and been threatened by kidnappers since their daughter disappeared.
The case unfolded against the backdrop of a society where traditionalist customs and religious views mean some families believe they should ‘marry off their daughters once they reach puberty’. According to figures from the campaign group Girls Not Brides, around 21 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.