‘Forced conversions hideous scar on conscience of our society’
Human rights lawyer demands progress in case of a 15-year-old Christian
girl who was forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man
Speaking on the recent abduction and forced conversion of a Christian girl who was them married to a Muslim man, noted human rights lawyer Zia Awan said on Tuesday that under-age marriages and forced conversions were a hideous scar on the conscience of our society.
“All stakeholders, including the government, need to make an earnest endeavour to eradicate the menace,” he added.
Awan was addressing a press conference on the issue of forced conversions.
He said cases of forced conversions and child marriages were being profusely reported from all areas of the country.
He mentioned the case of a 15-year old girl who had been coaxed by a man named Shahzad into eloping with him. Shahzad forced the girl to convert to Islam and married her, though he was already married.
According to Christian law, he could not marry a second time while his life partner was alive.
The girl’s distraught mother, who was present there, all veiled up to avoid being seen, told reporters that she had been running from pillar-to-post for justice but she had drawn a blank response everywhere she went. She said the police station concerned and the CPLC had bluntly refused to help her. To date, the whereabouts of the two are unknown.
Awan cited an Act passed in 2013 which laid down 18 as the minimum age for marriage for both parties and in case of violation of the age-limit, an FIR could be lodged. He said that violators in this case as also the facilitators could go to jail for three years.
Sharing further details, Awan said his organisation had filed a criminal miscellaneous application regarding the case in the court of the additional sessions judge/justice of peace, Karachi South, in reply to which, the judge had directed the Mehmoodabad SHO to file an FIR of the aggrieved party and conduct investigation into the case strictly in accordance with the law.
He said the FIR was registered but under sections that were not part of the Madadgar’s application and different from what the court had ordered. Furthermore, he said that none of the accused had been arrested.
He urged the IGP to see to it that the FIR was registered under the provisions ordered by the sessions court and expedite the arrest of the accused and instituting investigations. He also asked the DIG (East) to punish the errant police officers as per the law and dismiss the Mehmoodabad SHO who was either totally ignorant of the law or was deliberately resorting to such tactics.
Awan said that according to Section3 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, whoever (male) contracted a marriage with an under-aged girl was liable to a maximum of three years jail and a minimum of two years. As per Section 8 of the Act, the offence punishable under the Act would be cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
Awan, founder of the Madadgar National Child Helpline, national child commissioner for the federal ombudsman, and a member of the Sindh Child Protection Authority, said of late reports of such cases had been pouring in from all over the country and that all those found arranging and facilitating such illegal child marriages must be dealt with an iron hand.