CASE STUDIES |PAKISTAN: SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND FORCED CONVERSION
On 30th November 2020, a 24-year-old Christian woman in Pakistan was killed after refusing a Muslim man’s advances. Sonia Bibi was on her way to work when she was reportedly shot in the head at a bus stop in Rawalpindi. Police launched a manhunt for the alleged killer, Muhammad Shehzad.
Sonia’s father, Allah Rakha Masih, said that for the past four or five months Shehzad had followed and harassed Sonia and continued doing so after she had refused to marry him. Shehzad was accused of threatening to kill her if she resisted his demands and it was alleged that he had pressured her to convert. The parents of Shehzad even went to Sonia Bibi’s family home to convince her parents to let him marry her, but to no avail. Allah Rakha Masih said the family had been Christians for generations, adding that his daughter “was a true Christian and strong in her faith and she was killed for following her Christian faith”.
The Movement for Solidarity and Peace calculates that in Pakistan up to 1,000 young Christian and Hindu girls and young women aged between 12 and 25 are abducted by Muslim men every year. The research, which suggests that Christians make up 70 percent of these cases, found that the scale of the problem “is likely to be much greater as a number of the cases are never reported and do not progress through the law enforcement and legal systems”. Many of the girls suffer rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and domestic abuse.
Even though there are instances in which the families succeed in freeing the girls through the courts, frequently the courts find in favour of the abductor. This happened in the case of Maira Shahbaz, the 14-year-old whose marriage to Mohamad Nakash Tariq was upheld by Lahore High Court in August 2020, in spite of evidence showing the girl to be underage.
In November 2020, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an investigation into the forced conversion of women and girls from the country’s religious minority communities.
 “Pakistan Christian woman murdered for refusing to convert and marry”, by John Pontifex, ACN News 4th December 2020; (Aid to the Church in Need | PAKISTAN: Christian woman murdered for refusing to convert and marry (acnuk.org)
 “Muslim man shoots Christian woman dead for refusing to marry him”, by Nasir Sayeed, CLAAS, 7th December 2020; (Muslim man shoots Christian woman dead for refusing to marry him – Supporting Persecuted Christians In Pakistan | Blasphemy Law (claas.org.uk)
 “Christian aid group applauds investigation into forced conversions, marriages in Pakistan”, Catholic News Agency, 3rd December 2020; Christian aid group applauds investigation into forced conversions, marriages in Pakistan (catholicnewsagency.com)
 “Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions In the Christian Community of Pakistan”, Movement for Solidarity and Peace, April 2014; https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/msp/pages/162/attachments/original/1396724215/MSP_Report_-_Forced_Marriages_and_Conversions_of_Christian_Women_in_Pakistan.pdf?1396724215