Maira* loved to sing hymns at her church’s Easter service. This Easter, she is forced to hide rather than be able to join in celebrations. She had been abducted, forcibly married to a much older Muslim man, and must now wait in hiding after escaping. Forced “conversion” through marriage affects an estimated 1,000 girls from religious minorities in Pakistan every year.
14-year-old fights for her freedom in Pakistan
Topic | Persecution
Maira*, a 14-year-old teenager from Faisalabad, was on her way to school when she was kidnapped and forcibly married to a much older man. She was beaten, abused and forced to turn away from the Christian faith.
She escaped her captor – but not before he brutalized, blackmailed, married, and forcibly “converted” her from her Christian faith. When she sought justice, the Lahore High Court initially ordered that she be returned to her abductor. Working with local lawyer Sumera Shafiq, ADF International is seeking to annul her marriage certificate. She has been in hiding with her family for several months, hoping for positive news regarding her appeal any day now.
The Lahore High Court, Pakistan
Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for girls – especially if they are Christians.The case of Maira highlights a wider problem of forced “conversion” through marriage which affects an estimated 1,000 girls from religious minorities in this country every year.
The practice is usually carried out through kidnapping, sexual violence, and blackmail. Local authorities are often complicit in such cases. Sadly, courts have often failed to uphold the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which sets the legal age of marriage for girls at 16 years.
“The international community must take action to prevent such extreme violations of fundamental rights in Pakistan. Maira’s case is a much too frequent example of what religious minorities face in the country and can no longer go unnoticed. All people have the right to freely choose and live out their faith without fear of violence. All states must ensure that their laws and policies are in line with their commitments to protect religious freedom under international law,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF international.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 girls are married by the age of 18 in Pakistan. Globally, an additional 100 million girls will be at risk due to child marriage over the next decade.
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This International Women’s Day, Christian girls in Pakistan fear for their safety. Maira Shabaz knows the dangerous reality more than most. She escaped her captor – but not before he brutalised, blackmailed, married and forcibly “converted” her from her Christian faith.
In Pakistan, a fourteen-year-old girl and her family were forced into hiding after she escaped her abductor who forcibly married her. She escaped and gave a statement to the court saying she was abused and blackmailed.