Monica, a 12-year-old Christian girl from Lahore, Pakistan, was kidnapped on 11 August. Four days later, local police informed her father that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim. The police showed Monica’s father a marriage certificate, stating her age as 18 and accused her father of harassment, before suggesting he drop charges. Monica’s father refused. Monica’s kidnapper already has one wife and two children.
At a bail hearing in court on 3 October, the man charged with kidnapping Monica produced a marriage certificate, which again claimed that she is 18. However, the family’s lawyers were able to present the court with her birth certificate. The judge has ordered that Monica herself should appear in court. It is not yet known whether a date has been set for the second hearing.
A Pakistani charity, Movement of Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, has estimated that at least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced into marriages with Muslims every year. In such situations the police have a strong tendency to take the side of the rich and influential Muslims rather than the poor and despised Christians and to argue, just as in this case, that the girl is now married and therefore belongs to her Muslim husband rather than to her Christian parents.
On 4 October, Pakistan’s National Assembly tabled a resolution calling on the government to take action to prevent the kidnap and forced conversion of children from minority families. The government’s Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, stated that the government had no objection to the resolution being adopted and referred to committee. However, previous bills aimed at supporting minority rights in Pakistan have faced significant delays at committee stage, before parliament has debated enacting legislation.