Five Muslim men reportedly kidnapped and raped a teenage Christian girl in Pakistan — yet authorities refuse to respond to her family’s desperate calls for justice.
UCANews.com reports the 15-year-old girl named Maria was taken from her house in Sheikhupura city of Punjab province on June 9 at gunpoint. At the time of the kidnapping, the girl’s father, Jalal Masih, was at his job working as a laborer.
Masih filed a police report accusing Muhammad Sajid, a local businessman, and four others in the attack in which there were several witnesses.
"The locals saw them abducting her at gunpoint in a vehicle. I reached his (Sajid's) office but he was absent," Masih said in the First Information Report (FIR) filed six days after the incident. "We made contact the next day and he threatened to return her dead body if we informed the police."
"Sajid escaped after leaving Maria on our doorstep on June 10 night. She was extremely scared," her father said.
As the news spread on social media, various Christian activists and human rights groups are calling for the arrest of the suspects.
The interfaith group Rwadari Tehreek launched an anti-rape campaign with a protest on June 15 in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore.
"It is a sad reality that dozens of male and female children are subjected to sexual abuse and violence almost every day," Chairman Samson Salamat told UCANews, adding that Pakistan police continually turn a “blind eye toward these serious violations of human rights and the victims are being denied justice because of the lacunas in the justice system.”
Salamat also called local officials to organize sessions to educate police officers and other law enforcement officials on the issue.
"Most cases are dealt with in a wrong manner because of the bad treatment and attitude in police stations. The victims only become more victimized. Safe and fully equipped rehabilitation centers should be established for the victims of rape and child sexual abuse," he said.
In recent years, numerous reports have emerged of Christian women in Pakistan being abducted, raped, and even forced to marry their rapists. Oftentimes, the abducted girls are forced to convert to Islam, which makes their subsequent marriages legal under Pakistani law.
According to Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), a non-profit advocacy group providing legal aid to persecuted minorities, 28 Christian girls became victims of abduction, torture, sexual harassment, rape, forced conversion and forced marriages in Pakistan from November 2018 to June 2019.
"The number of unreported cases will be higher as the families of victims usually avoid getting help from biased police officials who support cruel and influential culprits. Only Christian and Hindu girls are victims in such cases," LEAD national director Sardar Mushtaq Gill told UCANews.com. "Crimes against religious minorities are increasing at a high scale in Pakistan."
William Stark, regional manager for South Asia at ICC, told The Christian Post that often, rape is used as a weapon to “entrap” victims.
“For many women in Pakistan, securing a good marriage is the only way to secure a good life. When these victimized women are raped, they feel trapped because it takes away their ability to secure a good marriage due to the shame associated with being a rape victim,” he said.
Additionally, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report that the country had failed to protect children, "with nearly all their fundamental rights and freedoms infringed on or put at serious risk of violation." The report said that very few victims of physical or sexual violence received protection, counseling or legal services.
"Violence against women and girls — including rape, murder through so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage — remained routine," noted the report.
In March, 13-year-old Sadaf Masih was abducted and forcefully converted to Islam. Now, her abductors are using the country’s legal system to keep her from returning home.
Last year, a 12-year-old Pakistani Christian girl was abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor, according to World Watch Monitor. When her father attempted to seek legal assistance, he was detained by police for “filing false charges” against her captor.
Eventually, the girl was returned home after she was unable to convince the court that she had willingly converted to Islam.