It’s pretty much a given that when you enter a relationship with someone, it’s your choice – especially if you’re thinking about marrying that person. We might have a (long) list of things we’re looking for in a partner… shared values, faith, dreams and hopes. But just imagine, if none of that was your choice. Imagine if someone could forcibly marry you and force their world-views upon you.
Shockingly that is the situation on Pakistan where up to 700 Christian women ‘are abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party’ every year, according to the Muslim NGO Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP).
MSP explains that there is a pattern to many of these cases: the parents of a Christian victim file a police report, but the abductor’s relatives or friends then file another police report on behalf of the abducted Christian woman, claiming that she wilfully married and converted to Islam, and that her parents are now ‘harassing’ her unlawfully.
When produced before the court and asked to testify, these women will often give a statement in favour of their captors because they fear for their lives, or those of their family. “In most cases, the girl remains in custody of the abductor while judicial proceedings are carried out,” the report states.
The case of Nadia is given as an example of this. She was just 15 when she was abducted. “The safety of my parents was my main concern,” she said. “I recorded that I wanted to live with my husband, and that I no longer had connection with my Christian parents. It was very painful to say this in court while my parents were present. But their safety was in my hands and I didn’t know how to handle the matter.”
After abduction, Christian women are subjected to ‘rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse’. Nadia received death threats and was denied access to her family after her abduction. She was also subjected to physical violence and verbal and sexual abuse. She was confined for ten years and gave birth to five children before she was finally able to escape.
Christians make up just 2 per cent of the population of Pakistan, and are a struggling and marginalised group – about 80 per cent live in abject poverty, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2014 report.
The BBC describes how being poor, female and Christian puts these women in ‘triple jeopardy’. The small number and poor status of Christians makes the exploitation of Christian women relatively easy and crimes against them often go unpunished with impunity.
Albert David, the chairman of the Pakistan United Christian Movement, stressed that the government should take measures to stop forced conversion when he spoke to World Watch Monitor in June. He also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to take action if the government fails to introduce special measures.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.