by Ayesha Asghar
The particular cases that I will be writing today are alarming as they are indicative of the systemic violence involved in addressing reported cases of sexual assault of minors in religious minority communities of Pakistan, especially in rural areas. 2 cases of minors from the same district has come forward, but I am not sure if there are more incident which haven’t been reported at all.
It is believed that as many as 20 to 25 girls from the Hindu community in Sindh, Pakistan are abducted every month and converted forcibly. Amarnath Motumal, an advocate and council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told The News in 2010:“The families of victims are scared to register cases against the influential perpetrators as death threats are issued to them in case they raise their voice. So, the victims choose to remain silent to save their lives.”
The following are recorded cases of rape and forced conversions. These girls were abducted, married off to Muslim men after being forced to convert. Their ages are anywhere from 13 to 18 years and there probably are hundreds which never come into the limelight.
In recent cases of sexual assault of minors from December 2012, the survivor is a Bheel – not just Hindu, but a scheduled caste Hindu. “The rape of children from scheduled castes is very common in Sindh.‘Bheel’ are scheduled caste Hindus and unfortunately in rural Sindh, sexual assault of minor girls in their community is common due to their minority status,” explained Sachal Lakhwani, agriculturist from Sanghar, Sindh & grassroots Hindu rights activist.
Chandar Parkash, resident of Umerkot, expressed his anger saying, “In Sindh, two Pirs/dargahs (shrines) are famous for forced conversion of young Hindu girls via abduction and sexual assault. One is Bharchundi Sharif (belonging to Mian Mitho) in Mirpur Mathelo, Ghotki and other is Sarhandi Pir in Samaro. Both of them are owned, supported and backed by Pakistan Peoples Party [PPP]. It seems PPP has vowed to make Sindh free of Hindus by next decade.”
“This is only tip of the ice-berg,” says Rakesh Lakhani, who works with migrated Hindus in Gandhidham, India, “None of the kidnapped girls are allowed to meet their family by the courts, like the case of Rinkle Kumari. Usually when a girl is kidnapped some clergy [Maulvi] or a local politician comes into picture, why? How come Asha Kumari of whom police negotiated a deal with the kidnappers could have voluntary married! 10-12 yrs old are kidnapped and then getting married on their own [Manisha was kidnapped and married to a 24 yr old, the court allowed the girl to be sent with the “new husband”] —-you want me to believe this! Forced Conversion and subsequent marriages are nothing but state-sponsored rapes!!”
There are statistics on sexual assaults in Pakistan but they are not indicative of true numbers as South Asians still stigmatize survivors for such heinous crimes. The statistics don’t account for religion, age and different demographics of people who suffer from sexual assaults and subsequent forced conversions.
It’s also disturbing that there are members of Parliament who are involved in facilitating such rapes by providing systemic protection to rapists through legal and political means. This is also one of the many reasons that mass migration of Hindus from Pakistan is not even recognized due to extreme level of oppression that Hindu community is facing in Pakistan. These are not just cases of mere sexual violence but systemic hate crimes towards religiously and castemarginalised Hindus in Pakistan.
To sign the Change.org petition calling on the government of Pakistan to stop child abuse and abuse of power in Sindh, click here.
Some organizations working on this issue are:
(map of Sindh province via Wikipedia)