Teenage Hindu girl kidnapped, converted to Islam and forced to marry a Muslim man

Abduction and forced conversion of young Hindu girls is a very common practice in Pakistan. Recently a Hindu family claimed that their daughter was kidnapped and converted to Islam and was married to a Muslim man.

Ravita Meghwadh was a teenage girl who was converted to Islam and changed her name to Gulnaz on June 6. But on the same day she married Syed Nawaz Ali Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in Union Council Samaro in Umerkot.

The girl’s father said that she was kidnapped and forcefully married to a man twice of her age. So girl’s father Satram alias Satio Meghwadh lodged the FIR at Nano Dandal police station in Nangarparkar, Tharparkar.

FIR against Shah (the husband), Madad Ali Shah, Umar Junejo and Sheru Junejo has been lodged under Section 365-B of Pakistan Penal Code. It deals with kidnapping to compel a woman to marry against her will.

The marriage registrar has mentioned Shah’s year of birth as 1980, and national identity card number on the marriage certificate, but Ravita’s age has been written as “approximately 18” and her NIC number not mentioned. Similarly, the certificate of conversion to Islam also does not mention her date of birth and NIC number, listing her age as “approximately 18.”

But according to her primary school certificate, Ravita is underage. She is just 15 years old.

Lajpat Meghwadh, Ravita’s brother-in-law  said that he had married Ravita’s elder sister who is just 18 years and questioned how Ravita is 18 years old?

Why Ravita was kidnapped?

Lalpat said that Syed and Junejo  community dominated the village and they wanted Meghwadh community to vacate the village. 4 houses of Meghwadh family is in the village. When Meghwadh family didn’t pay heed to this, Ravita was kidnapped and Lalpat was pressurised to vacate the village.

But Shah and family alleged that they married with girl’s consent and also said that Meghwadh family is issuing threats to him after their marriage.

The Meghwadh family decided to file a petition in Sindh High Court against the marriage. Lalpat’s lawyer said the marriage was solemnised in violation of Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013, which was passed by Sindh Assembly in April 2014.

The law don’t allow the marriage of an individual under the age of 18 years. If found guilty, it’s a non bailable offense and jail term upto 3 years can be imposed to the groom, person solemnizing such marriage and even the family of the man and woman tying the knot. The police have not yet made any arrests.

Why the forced conversion bill still not into effect?

The forced conversion bill, officially known as the ‘Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill’ was passed unanimously in November last year, following numerous complaints that people, especially children, belonging to non-Muslim communities, were being forced to convert to Islam. However, the situation took an unpleasant turn when many religious parties took to the streets against the proposed law and announced a movement against it.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who heads the Pakistan Hindu Council said that minor girls of the Hindu community are forced to change their religion. He says “We can present dozens of such cases that happened in Ghotki, Jacobabad, Badin, Thar, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and other areas of Sindh.”

Hindu community in Pakistan is regularly targeted but the government is not doing anything but is bothered about Kashmir issue. India need to take a note on this so that Hindus can survive peacefully in Pakistan.

Rajat Bhandary