ASIA/PAKISTAN - Arzoo Raja, the High Court closes the case: Catholic child bride to stay in Pakistan shelter home

Monday, 23 November 2020 human rights   childhood   marriage   justice   religious minorities   discrimination   child bride  

Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - The Sindh high court has ordered the teenage Catholic child bride Arzoo Raja - kidnapped, converted to Islam and subjected to forced marriage (see Fides 21/10/2020) - to remain in a state-run shelter home. During today's hearing, November 23, the judge did not allow the girl to return to her family of origin and that she will have to stay in the aforementioned structure.
If on the one hand the decision definitely tears her away from the one who kidnapped her, the fact that she does not return to the house where she was born causes disappointment among Catholics. Arzoo Raja's family, in agreement with their defenders, will appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to obtain custody of their daughter.
Muslim lawyer Jibran Nasir, who is following Arzoo Raja's case, explains to Fides: "Today the Sindh High Court has disposed of the case, which was primarily filed by Arzoo’s abductors in her name. The court denied all their prayers regarding Arzoo’s custody, legality of the marriage and cancellation of the case filed by her parents".
The lawyer Nasir continues: "On the other hand, an FIR [first information report] by her father has not been quashed and instead Section 375(5) for statutory rape of a minor, under the age of 16, has been added, a crime that can be punished with life imprisonment or death sentence".
The lawyer adds: "The Court confirmed that Arzoo will remain in the shelter home and directed the home secretary to assign an officer from the Social Welfare Department to ensure Arzoo's well-being and to facilitate her path of education. It is a step forward because Arzoo is safe. We will now do our best and we will present an appeal to the Supreme Court for the girl to return to live with her loved ones".
Fr. Saleh Diego, Vicar General and director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Archdiocese of Karachi, after the sentence of the Sindh High Court, told Fides: "We expected her to be left with her family. In the past, in some cases, minors had been returned to their families. The judge has ordered Arzoo to stay in the shelter home where she is currently living as long as she wishes. We still ask the judiciary to entrust custody of the minor to her parents".
Fr. Saleh Diego also states: "The court should consider that she is a minor, who has suffered a violent trauma and is under pressure after her kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage to the man who raped her" (see Fides, 24/10/2020, 3/11/2020 and 9/11/2020). "We ask for full respect of our rights as Pakistani citizens". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/11/2020)

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