ARZOO RAJA (13) ABDUCTION, RAPE, FORCED CONVERSION AND MARRIAGE
November 13, 2021 – Karachi Pakistan: A small delegation met with Arzoo Raja in a Shelter House. While talking with her family she shared her desire to return home to live with her parents. During this visit, two other community leaders who were also present recorded Arzoo’s statement. Arzoo happily expressed that she wanted to reunite with her family, but suddenly she was called to the office by the Shelter House Manger and given some instruction. When Arzoo returned to the visiting room she refused to speak further, and her face turned very sad; she looked fearful & confused. Raja then informed us that his daughter is being told by the manager of the Shelter House that only Muslims will go to heaven, and that she must remain Muslim till her death. In addition, the Shelter House staff is also creating fear that if she returns home, she will experience honor killing by her father, Raja, or her brother.
Arzoo said that other girls staying in similar cases call her Choori/Bangie (derogatory word for Christians). Arzoo is facing mistreatment by the shelter house staff. The shelter house management sides with the other party and also secretly allows the culprit family members to visit Arzoo and continue convincing her not to go back to her family. There are other girls also in the Shelter House. Besides doing their daily chores, it is said that they are taught different skills in their free time.
Raja Lal, the father, denies having any inclination toward this or any other abuse upon her return. He believes that his daughter is an innocent child of God, who used to serve as altar girl in their church.
The lawyer is waiting for the high court to fix a court hearing date. Meanwhile Arzoo’s written statement, in which she states that she wants to live with her parents, has been recorded and submitted to the High Court.
It should be noted that the epic court dealt this case as violation of ‘The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013’ and sent Arzoo to the shelter house initially for two weeks. However, the delaying tactics to decide the case and brainwashing of the teenager has stretched these two weeks into over 55 weeks now which doesn’t seem to have an end in the near future. Raja family is suffering since October 2020; the parents cannot go for work. They are also worried about the Arzoo’s education and mental health. It will
take years before the family to resettle and have family bounding back to normal life. Thus the agony of the poor daily wager parents goes on without end.
The family visits Arzoo regularly in a shelter house in Karachi. The lawyer has warned the parents that they could be attacked and has asked them to limit their movements in the city. The Raja family hires a taxi to visit Arzoo. She is very close to her grandmother who often joins them for a visit. Arzoo loves snacks and chocolates, but only after careful scrutiny will the Shelter House staff allow these treats to be carried in with them. No cell phones or other electronics are allowed during the visit.
Raja claimed that their 13-year-old daughter was not legally eligible to get married. But their opponents claimed that according to shariah law, girls can marry at any age following their first menstrual period.
In Arzoo’s initial appearance in court, she stated that she had agreed to run away and marry Ali Azhar the 45 years old. The Sindh High Court decided to place Arzoo in a shelter house to allow her time to decide if she wanted to return to live with her parents. Without this decision on her part Arzoo will remain in the Shelter House until she turns 16 and her marriage could then be declared legal by the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013
Akmal Bhatti – advocate – Lahore High Court Pakistan – Chairman Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP) has stated that how can the State allow underage girls to marry (big decision of their life with no profound understanding) when the following articles legally prohibit children from;
1. Not Eligible to apply for a driving license – under penal code 4 Motor Ordinance 1965
2. Not Eligible to apply for National Identity card – article 9/10 National Data Base & Registration Authority Ordinance NADRA 2000
3. Not Eligible to be kept with common prisoners if arrested – Under Judicial System 2000 Between 7 to 12 years old the Crime is not guilty – Penal Code of Pakistan Act 82/83
4. Not eligible to Vote – Article (2) 51 Constitution of Pakistan 1973
5. Not eligible to marry according to 1929 Act, Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act 2015, Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013
6. Not Eligible to buy or sell property – under Section 11, Contract Act 1872
7. Not eligible to contest election – according to article i) B & ii) C 62 Constitution of Pakistan 1973,
Child Rights Act – under 16 girls cannot get married – Prohibition
Nadeem Bhatti stated that Shelters House in each province is built to keep the individual until the court decides their cases. In this case Arzoo was sent to shelter house until she decides to live with her partners or turn 16 years of age so that legally her marriage could be recognized. The shelter house management role here in this case is supposed to remain equal for both parties, and let Arzoo decide for her future independently. But the shelter Manager Zer Bano Kohyar is playing a negative (bias) role. She should be removed from this position as her role is contradictory, favoring the culprit party. CAPC will record our concerns to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.