(Pakistani Hindus celebrate Holi, the 'festival of Spring' in Peshawar on March. The Holi festival is celebrated by Hindus to mark the onset of spring)
A Muslim family kidnapped and forcibly converted an 18-year-old Christian woman, then beat her mother twice for trying to get her daughter back in Lahore, Pakistan recently, according to Compass Direct News (CDN).
On April 25 Muhammad Akhter and Muhammad Munir broke into the home of 50-year-old Fazeelat Bibi, the victim’s mother. They beat her for seeking legal help for her daughter Saira, whom the two Muhammads had kidnapped, the CDN said.
Neighbors’ calls to the police were unheeded during the beating in Bibi’s Lahore home, situated in the predominantly Muslim Bostaan Colony. One week before, Bibi went to the kidnapper’s house to see her daughter. The kidnapper’s family beat her with clubs and ripped off her clothes.
The two Mohammeds, Akhter and Munir, claimed the victim had eloped with the latter. But Saira said she was kidnapped from her home and her jewelry and dowry were stolen. Then they forced her to convert to Islam. Saira was engaged to a Christian man, CDN said.
Quoting a report from the Asian Human Rights Commission, Reliefweb cited this pattern where the women usually range in age from 15 to 18. Reliefweb reported strong suspicions that once “converted,” the girls are trafficked and sold. This may explain why the families may no longer see their daughters, although the “husbands” return to the village and resume their normal lives.
Other recent stories of abduction of Pakistani women of minority faith who were kidnapped, “converted” and “married” are:
* Gajri Ram, 15, a Pakistani Hindu who was abducted from her home by a Muslim neighbor. Her parents later learned she was held captive in a madrassa, had married and converted to Islam. The madrassa will not allow the parents to see her. Local government authorities are not helping the family of the victim. They claimed to receive a letter from the madrassa with an affidavit that Gajri had married and converted. The letter showed no marriage certificate, according to the Pakistan Christian Post.
* Daya Meghwar, 15, was forcibly married to an influential Muslim man and converted to Islam. The abductors threatened the entire 71 Dalit Meghwar family against alerting authorities lest more women are kidnapped. The 71 families left the village and settled in a nearby town. They are deprived of their source of income, food and access to drinkable water. Government indifference remains, according to Reliefweb.
* Kastoori, 17, a Hindu girl was kidnapped on March 2010 by three influential Muslim brothers and raped by one of them. She was forced to wed her rapist and convert to Islam. The court and police, when called for assistance, instead arrested the victim’s father under a fake case, Reliefweb said.
* Miss Gomti, 15, a Hindu, was abducted by her parents’ landlord and was married to one of the landlord’s peasants after converting to Islam. The parents only knew of her whereabouts six weeks after, could only see the young girl in the presence of the landlord’s employees, and were shown a wedding certificate that falsely registered her as 19 years old, Reliefweb said.
According to Reliefweb, women of minority faiths and dominations are vulnerable targets in Muslim dominated Pakistan. They estimate 20-25 Hindu girls are abducted monthly and forcibly converted. The head of the Madrassa (school) where Daya was converted said they had 40,000 conversions in their school.
The same report bewailed the lack of sufficient mechanisms in their defense. Such crimes are rarely reported and when they are, they are rarely addressed by law enforcement authorities.
Reliefweb said that even at the highest levels, government response is marginal at most. In 2009 two laws were set in motion penalizing harassment of women in any public and private workplace; and criminalizing domestic violence. However, there is little likeliness it will impact on the lives of women of religious minorities.