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US and UK urged to reconsider aid to Pakistan where gender-based violence for Pakistan's Christian minority remains unabated

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7 year old Saira was raped by a Muslim man on Easter day 2014

BPCA is seeking to win the first ever annulment for a young 12-year-old victim of abduction, rape, forced conversion and child marriage as their commitment for the UN's International Day for Women. The young girl  named Elisha was returned to the custody of her parents pending further court action after being kidnapped, sexually assaulted and forced into an Islamic marriage to a Muslim man over twice her age. Islamabad High Court  returned the girl to parents after a medical examination confirmed her young age and and inquiry revealed her limited knowledge of Islam (click here). To pay for sound legal counsel the family of Elisha had sold themselves into slavery BPCA freed them last week and have committed to pay for all the costs associated with their legal battle (click here).  If this landmark case is won it will create a window of opportunity for all forced Islamic marriage victims.

Forced marriage remains a prevalent problem in Pakistan despite measures taken by legislatures last year to raise the age of consent. (click here)  

These sexual assaults are an offence against the entire Christian community. Not only are these women told to remain silence about such intimate atrocities but Christian communities are also expected to allow these predators to spirit away their daughters, sisters, wives and mothers as if the rapists are doing them some sort of a favour! Often, as in this most recent case with Elisha, the girl’s family were criticized for complaining about the rape of their female relative because she became part of “a respectable Muslim family,” said High Court Judge Magistrate Zeba Chaudhry. When Elisha's father tried to register an FIR the police officer took it as a slight akin to blasphemy when he stated that his daughter would not willingly convert to Islam. (click here)

As we reflect on International Women’s Day it calls to our attention the vulnerability of Pak-Christian women in their homeland and the attitudes that even Pak-Christians have picked up from the surrounding culture that must be reckoned with according to our Christian faith. With the numerous reports of abduction, rape, sexual assault, gender-based harassment, and forced marriage that we covered last year, which palpably represent the sexual terrorism Christian women face on a daily basis, a poor indictment of Pakistani governance develops Christian women face on a daily basis. Gender-based violence impacts Christian families all over Pakistan and there is no demographic that has been left untouched. Despite clear vulnerabilities the victim-blaming cultural mores that exist in Pakistan often leave woman and their families with the feeling they could have done something to prevent becoming a victim of gender-based violence, when this feeling is not based in reality - these woman are targeted for their faith and this happens across all demographics of the Christian community. 
Work ethic doesn’t matter! 

Employment may be more of a sexual harassment hazard for Pak-Christian women and girls especially when it comes to those who are indentured (in modern day slavery contracts). Being a hard worker or trying not to draw attention to yourself does not reduce the risk of sexual assault.

Being sexually assaulted has no bearing on a woman's character.

Indentured worker Fouzia was granted a miracle divorce from her “owner” who she was tortured by. She was targeted by her employer and when she sought help from the women of his house she was blamed by them for her situation. (click here)   BPCA were able to give her shelter in a safe house, after twice emancipating her from the clutches of her rapist and tormentor. We won her divorce by not pleading for an annulment but by seeking 'divorce' on the basis of the cruel beatings and 'marital rape' she suffered.    

A 13-year-old was raped by a fellow farm labourer as her bound cousin feared being the next victim. Fortunately her cries were heard and the rapist fled when others came to their aid.  (click here)

Intellectual ability doesn’t matter!

The gang rape of a mentally challenged teenaged girl right in the family home just prior to Christmas. (click here)

Age doesn’t even matter!

Sabia, only three years old, was raped by a neighbour after he sent her 10-year-old brother to buy him cigarettes. We continue to pray that her reproductive organs be restored Christian girls are vulnerable due to the work conditions put on their mothers and especially single mothers are left with no option but to leave their children at home unattended. (click here)

Sadly, a 7-year-old girl named Saira was raped on Easter Sunday in 2014 (click here)

Status doesn’t matter!

Military men need to be away for their work and such was the case for the husband of Asia Mushtaq who was away risking his life for his country. Neighbours in the community knew this and used it as an opportunity to isolate and gang rape his helpless wife who was left vulnerable in his absence. Not even this man’s service to his country won enough respect to prevent this targeting of his wife for their religious beliefs. (click here)

Marital status doesn’t matter!

It doesn’t even matter if the woman is married. A victim of false blasphemy charges, Asia Bibi was told to divorce her husband, leave her family and marry a Muslim man to secure leniency on the blasphemy charge she remains incarcerated and is sentenced to hang. (click here)  

A Pak-Christian woman of 21 lost her marriage and a child her father after the young woman mistakenly thought her Father in law had arrived to pick her up. As she attempted to walk to her family home she was held for three days and gang raped in the vacated home of her assailant’s uncle. Pakistan's "honour culture" negetively impacted this young mother when her husband had difficulty coming to terms with what had happened to his wife through no fault of her own.  (click here)   
Location doesn’t matter!

There are different situations that arise in both rural and urban settings. Woman are left vulnerable to sexual assault in communities that do not have adequate running water or toileting facilities. One way BPCA hopes to reduce the risk of sexual assault in rural settings is by building public washroom facilities that are managed by a security guard so they do not have to put themselves at risk by going to the field simply because nature calls. (click here)

Another young woman was summarily abducted right out of her family home at gun point. (click here)  

Samina was 13 when a neighbour man 10 years her senior, Adam Babbas began following her home from school, harassing her until the threats became so bad she started losing hope in the future. He moved in next door in her urban community and neither the neighbours, nor the police would intervene as the family was left to fend for themselves. (click here)  

To contribute our rescue and legal advocacy against forced marriage (click here)

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman on the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"Equality for women in Pakistan within the current socio-political climate is an unattainable dream, for Christians and other minority women it's impossible.

"Malala Yousafzai and her friends were shot at becase they dared to attend schools to seek an education - a gender concept that is anathema to the Taliban.

"For Christian girls the long term torture of rapists that use the corruption of Imam's who conduct sham marriages to trap them into brutal lives as sex slaves, is an ever present danger.

"Inequality in the workplace is rife and women will suffer endless sexual harrassment by their male peers, who will inevitably reach senior positions at the cost of the more qualified and experienced women who work with them.

"Pakistan has been 143rd in the Global Gender Pay Gap Index since at least 2013, which is shocking when you realise they are only 144 major or developing countries on the list. A shocking indictment of the worth of a woman in Pakistan.

"While Britain and America continue to plough money into one of the worlds most corrupt nations, neither the gender pay gap nor the safety of Christian women and girls has improved.

"BPCA continues to advocate for these suffering women and calls on the world to take note of their ongoing abuse while they celebrate International Day for Women. We challenge foreign aid donors to prioritise women and minorities in any future aid programmes".

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