Child Bride: A Brother's Fight to Free His Sister From Forced Marriage in Pakistan
Following the call by Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney and Melinda French Gates to end child marriage within a generation, Natasha Phillips looks at the struggles faced by the families of child brides.
The solar powered generator has not kicked in yet, so Aadi* is sitting and speaking in the dark in his house in Pakistan. “The short time I get to spend with my sister is always the same. Anshu* tells me how unhappy she is, to forget about her, and that I should leave the country for my own safety. She keeps telling me she wants to end it all with tablets or poison”, he says. There’s a low hum, and the lights blink on.
Anshu, 19, has learning difficulties and was diagnosed with childhood depression in 2018. She was abducted in 2020, from a relative’s house in the province of Sindh, when she was 15 years old. Her abductors took her to a mosque, where she was forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam, and married to a 31-year-old man she had never met. The whole ordeal, including the marriage ceremony, which was captured on video, took less than five hours.
Forced conversion and forced marriage are prohibited in Islam. However, these forms of abuse have been recorded in Pakistan, whose population is 97.7% Muslim, and disproportionately affect girls in the province of Sindh, which holds 90% of the country’s religious minorities — approximately 4.4 million Hindus and 2.6 million Christians.
While child marriage is a well-known form of violence against children affecting an estimated 765 million boys and girls across 117 countries, including the US, the forced religious conversion of girls within child marriage is painfully under-researched and under-reported.