July 25, 2021

Police in Pakistan recover teen girl after alleged forced conversion and marriage

File photo of a marriage
According a UN study, nearly a quarter of women in their early 20s in Pakistan were married by 18

A 13-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan who was allegedly abducted and forced to convert and marry a Muslim man has been rescued, officials said.

The recovery of the girl came nearly a month after the girl’s parents alleged that she was abducted by Ali Azhar, 44.

The courts had failed to act earlier because they accepted statements the girl gave saying she was 18 and had married of her own free will.

But pressure from campaign groups and a public outcry prompted action.

Leaders from the Catholic Church in Pakistan and human rights groups demanded that the court ruling be reconsidered, arguing that the girl had been forced to give her statement after entering a child marriage. Protesters also took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

On Monday, the Sindh High Court ordered police to find the teenager. She was recovered later in the day and will remain in protective custody until a court hearing on 5 November.

Her alleged abductor was arrested later the same night and is due to appear in court on Tuesday.

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