Arzoo Raja

By Shafique Khokhar

Nov 3 2020

The MWF makes some requests to the government, starting with the strict and impartial implementation of the law on the limitation of the marriage of underage girls belonging to religious minorities.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Minority Women Forum (MWF) * released its first statement on the Arzoo case today, 2 November. The MWF strongly condemns the heinous practice of under aged marriages of girls belonging to the religious minorities in Pakistan on the pretext of changing religion and contracting marriage of their choice. As under the Child Marriage Restraint Act this amounts to statutory rape.

The case of Arzoo Raja, once again, calls our attention to the multiple vulnerabilities of minor girls of religious minorities emanating from the social divisions based on class, caste, religion and gender. Various research studies explain the disastrous consequences of underage marriages on the health of mother and child and deprive the girls from their right to education.

While respecting the independent right to conversion to any faith, we urge the concerned authorities to look into the pattern of religious conversions followed by under-age marriages. If no action is taken against such rampant practices, then such incidents will strongly contribute towards the spread of social divisions, distances and disharmony among communities of different faiths. Adhering to the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, such marriages of minor girls need to be invalidated.

We call upon the government to;

  1. Ensure strict and unbiased implementation of Child Marriage Restraint Act against the marriages of minor girls belonging to the religious minorities in Pakistan.
  2. Enact comprehensive legal and policy measures at national and provincial levels to stop forced conversions and subsequent marriages of minority minor girls and to ensure that any religious conversion is done without any pressure and with free will.
  3. Introduce comprehensive anti-discrimination measures, legislative, policy and administrative initiatives to protect and promote the human rights of religious minorities, particularly of minority women and girls who often become victims of abduction, rape, forced religious conversion and under age marriage.

 

*MWF is minority women led group formed to advocate for the rights of minority women and girls. @MinorityWomenPK – AsiaNews