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Protective custody sought for ‘underage forced conversion’ victim Arzoo Raja

Parents file application with South judicial magistrate

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 31, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Posted: Oct 31, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago

Photo: Online

A petition has been filed with a Karachi judicial magistrate seeking protective custody for 13-year-old Arzoo Raja, whose parents say she was abducted, forcibly converted and married to a 44-year-old man.

Her parents have filed a petition with the District South judicial magistrate asking the court to direct the police to recover the girl and produce her before the court. They also want her to be put into the custody of a child protection institute because they fear she is currently being subjected to sexual violence.

Arzoo’s parents say she is 13 years old and have a NADRA birth certificate, NADRA registration and baptism certificate to prove it. The NADRA information says she was born on July 31, 2007. Her abductor claims she is 18 years old and willingly converted to Islam in order to marry him. He is 44 years old.

Her parents have filed an application under rules 5, 8, 9 and 10 of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Rules, 2016, Section 6 of the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 and Section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Her father, Raja Masih, filed an FIR on October 13 after Arzoo was kidnapped from her home. The police later found that she had been married off to Syed Ali Azhar, who presented a nikkahnama, free-will affidavit and a Sanad-e-Islam certificate.

Her parents have argued in their application that consummation of a child marriage is tantamount to statutory rape and is outlawed under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 5 of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006.

The nikkahnama doesn’t have any particulars of her age or CNIC copy. It doesn’t have the medical certificate needed to prove a person is 18 in case there is no CNIC either.

Arzoo’s parents say she was forced to file a petition in the Sindh High Court on October 27. The court has restrained the police from making arrests in the case but doesn’t stop the police from continuing the investigation, argued her parents.

It also ordered the police to provide protection to the petitioner. This is where he parents’ argument of her being subjected to sexual violence comes in. They say she should be provided protection from her abductor.

Her parents say they approached the South SSP but nothing has been done.

“There exists no lawful excuse to not recover the detenu [Arzoo] and take cognizance of the offence of child-marriage against the accused but rather there exists a paramount responsibility on the police to undertake such actions and further apprise both this Honorable Court and the Honorable High Court of the true facts,” read the application. It argued that the police’s inaction is tantamount to contempt of court.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also taken notice of the issue. In a message posted on Twitter, he said the Sindh government will approach the courts to review the case to “clear up any misunderstanding the honourable court may have”. “We passed the law will continue to fight for it to be implemented.”

On Thursday , a sessions court granted post-arrest bail to three suspects detained for abducting the child. The move came after the men argued that the Sindh High Court had restrained the police from arresting them. Syed Ali Azhar’s two brothers Syed Shariq Ali and Syed Mohsin Ali and his friend Danish were detained for their involvement in the abduction. They are all reportedly police officials.

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