Abducted 16-year-old fights for justice after forced marriage

ADF International
Original article

“They told me they would burn my face with acid if I didn’t do as they said,” recalled Reeha Saleem, who was one of the forced marriage victims our team has encountered.

This is a Christian girl who was abducted on her way home from school when she was 16 years old.

Within days, Reeha was “married” to her much older neighbour Muhammad, forcibly converted to Islam, and held in captivity while being repeatedly sexually assaulted by her captors.

The gut-wrenching abuse lasted over two months until one day Reeha managed to flee from her “husband” when her abductors mistakenly left a gate unlocked.

She sprinted to safety where a good Samaritan lent his phone so she could call her mother.

Reeha was free from her captors. She was battered but recovering with her mother, Parveen.

However, her family endured constant threats. Reeha, now 20, just wants to continue her education so she can be like the other women her age. But to make it worse for her and her mother, the police didn’t help.

“The police kept on telling me Reeha must have done it out of her own free will and that registering a case would only bring shame to my family,” said Parveen.

All she wants is to heal, move on, and receive an education.

Sadly, girls are still forced into marriage, coerced into signing away their rights, abducted, sexually abused, and dehumanised.

In countries like Reeha’s, righting the wrongs of forcing young girls into marriage can be almost impossible. Too often, the police officers’ help is not reliable.

Parveen struggles with hope that her daughter’s case will make any ground without the help of their lawyer.

That’s why ADF International allied lawyer Sumera Shafique has already moved the court to annul the marriage on the grounds that she was abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to sign the marriage certificate.

Though she was of age according to provincial law, the marriage is invalid because she was abducted, forced to convert from Christianity, and forced to sign the certificate.

We are honoured to support Reeha’s case to annul the marriage so her mother can still provide for the family’s needs. But we need your help.

Girls like Maira, who was also forcibly married in Pakistan, the tens of other girls we’re fighting for right now plus Reeha need justice from the courts to correct the obvious violations of their dignity.

My team sees this too often in South Asia. And the burden is heavy.

I hope to share news of Reeha’s victory with you soon, but for now, I ask you to please join this young woman’s support team while praying for a good judgement. Would you help her today?