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23 NOVEMBER 2020 Update on Arzoo Raja’s case: A high court in Pakistan denied Arzoo’s parents custody of their daughter and decided that Arzoo – who is currently just 13 years old – must remain in a government-managed home until she is 18 years old. This decision came after Arzoo had repeatedly refused to return to her family home, which convinced the court that she decided this on her own account. However, Arzoo’s attorney Jibran Nasir explained: “please understand that Arzoo is reluctant to live with her parents because of the consistent brainwashing done by the accused and certain community activists for ulterior motives.” Girl victims of abduction and forced conversion and marriage often face threats from their perpetrators. Reflecting further on Arzoo’s case, Pakistani human rights advocate Qayyum Bahadur reveals that “she is easily accessible to Muslim family members of the accused and Islamist clerics, and they will continue to influence her, making it impossible for her to return to her family and Christian faith. The court must entrust her custody to her parents.”
On a positive note, the high court has refused to dismiss the charges of statutory rape pressed on Arzoo’s kidnapper, Ali Azhar. This means that the First Information Report (FIR) filed by Arzoo’s father – which includes identity documentation proving that Arzoo is a minor and medical exams which reveal that she was raped by her abductor – is being considered by the court in its judicial processes.