The case of 13-year-old Arzoo has naturally led to renewed questions of the state’s stance on child marriages and forced conversions. In this instance, where her 45-year-old ‘husband’ reportedly abducted her, prepared fake records stating that she was 18 years of age and whisked her off somewhere even authorities haven’t been able to reach for the past few days is a worrying display of impunity in crimes against minority groups.

But what was even more astounding is that the perpetrators were booked, but granted bail on the basis of consent and were subsequently released. The decision of the lower courts to send her back to the purported husband is deplorable. With the intervention of the Sindh High Court (SHC), the hope is that Arzoo will be recovered, the perpetrators will be held accountable and a precedent will be set for any such cases in the future.

What’s most appalling is that laws for forced conversion and child marriages exist but are virtually transparent to the authorities and the masses at large. This explains why there has been a significant delay in her recovery. The height of incompetency was reached when it was taking hours to verify her age—a seemingly mundane task in comparison to all the factors that need to be considered in such a situation. If this was done ineffectually, what could be expected going forward with the case?

Additionally, there is a need to address the issue of informed consent; children cannot make decisions that affect their lives permanently. Hence the viral videos of her expressing her willingness to marry and convert do not apply. Until she is of age, her parents make the significant decisions in her life. This is why we do not let children vote until a certain age as well.

Now that the SHC is involved, the government, both provincial and federal, will be forced to focus on the matter of how to prevent, scrutinise and penalise instances of forced conversions and child marriages.