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2014-03-07

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Women in Pakistan: Christian girls raped by Muslims

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The rape of girls belonging to religious minorities is a very common phenomenon in Pakistan. Christian women are a prime target, because the most vulnerable and defenseless. The majority of cases are not even reported to the police and, when it happens, the perpetrators of violence often go unpunished.
The Christian community is still shocked by the recent case of Sumbal, a 5-year-old Christian girl, raped by a group of Muslim men on a street in Lahore. The mobilization of activists and Christian organizations to seek justice remains very strong.
Another recent case reported to Fides by the NGO CLAAS ("Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement") concerns a Muslim man from Lahore who attempted to rape two Christian girls, sisters, aged 1 and 3. The mother worked in the house of a wealthy Muslim, where also Allah Baksh worked, who began to harass her sexually. After the woman’s refusal, the man was caught red-handed while trying to rape the two girls. Baksh was arrested following a complaint, but the police are putting pressure on the girls’ parents to withdraw the complaint.
A few months ago another case aroused indignation: that of a 9-year-old Christian girl who suffered a gang rape by three young Muslims. Violence against children are committed with ease, explains a source of Fides that assists victims, especially because the perpetrators remain unpunished: injustice fuels the vicious cycle of violence.
In 2004, a case that caused uproar around the world was the brutal rape of a-two-year old child Neha Munir raped because her father, Munir Masih, a Christian, refused to convert to Islam. After a long ordeal, Neha's family fled to Canada. Neha has become a symbol of all the abused children in Pakistan.
The NGO LEAD ("Legal Evangelical Association Development"), which is dedicated to promoting the social integration of Christians in Pakistan, notes that Christian women are being denied every human right and dignity. In particular, Christian girls are often treated "as a commodity". According to data gathered by Fides, each year there are approximately 700 cases of girls belonging to religious minorities (Christian or Hindu ) who are raped or kidnapped, even for the purpose of conversion. The "All Pakistan Minorities Alliance" (APMA ), has created a special legal team that provides free legal assistance to religious minorities, such as the families involved in these cases of violence. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/03/2014)

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