Hindu girls still targeted for rape in Pakistan: world remains silent

The raping of Hindu women and girls “has almost become a trend in Sindh province,” in south Pakistan, claims the Daily Bhaksar. Since the beginning of December, at least two Hindu girls, one aged six and the other 14, have been attacked and raped. The six-year-old victim was allegedly kidnapped and raped by Hashim Magiro, the owner of a gambling den near the girl’s home in the Umerkot district of Sindh.

Then at the end of December, in Mubarak Tarr village, Sindh, a 14-year-old Hindu girl was raped allegedly by a local leader of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the attacker entered the girl’s house and, while two accomplices stood guard, tortured the mother and then raped the teenage girl.

Manisha Kumari

Manisha Kumari, 14, allegedly kidnapped in Pakistan and converted to Islam in April 2012.

The alleged rapist is from a wealthy and influential family. The victims are both Hindu and poor. The police refused to file the necessary First Information Report (FIR) about the attack, until put under pressure by the family, which threatened to self-immolate in protest. And even the hospital initially refused to perform a medical checkup, citing the lack of an FIR as an excuse. The family of the six-year-old rape victim met a similar response by the authorities, with the two hospitals the girl was taken to failing to “treat her properly,” despite the fact that she was bleeding profusely by the time she reached the second medical facility.

The attack on the 14-year-old girl and her mother is not the first alleged incident of involvement of Pakistani officials in rapes and forced conversions of Hindu girls. Indeed, it is widely believed that officials often collude in such activity. In 2012, Mian Mithhu, a PPP member of the National Assembly was implicated in the high-profile abduction and forced conversion of Hindu teenager Rinkle Kumari. During one court hearing the Hindu teenager begged the judge: “kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school].”

Kumari acknowledged that she had never met Naveed Shah before was wedded to him, and protested against the marriage. Yet she eventually decided to live with him. Few, if any, though, really believe that she did not do so out as a result of weeks of intimidation, in which the police appeared to be complicit, and out of fear at what would happen to her if she returned to her home and to the practice of her Hindu faith. As India Today put it, the case exemplified “how political might and brute force are used to oppress Hindus in Pakistan and forcibly convert girls.”

According to AHRC, Kumari was taken to, and married at, the Dargah Aalia Qadria Bharchoondi Sharif, which has said that it “has the target to convert 2000 Hindus every year to Islam.” The Daily Bhaksar claims that, the Bharchundi Sharif Dargah (mosque), in Mirpur Mathelo, Ghotki District, Taluka Daharki and the Pir Sarhandi Dargah, in the Umerkot District, Taluka Samaro, are mainly responsible for forced conversions of Hindu girls.

The Indian Express, citing a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), claims that nearly 2,000 women from minority sects, including Hinduism, were “forcibly converted to Islam through rape, torture and kidnappings” in 2011 alone.

Amarnath Motumal, a lawyer and leader of Karachi’s Hindu community, told IRIN — a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — that the targeting of Hindu girls for rape and forced conversion to Islam is a growing phenomenon, with at least 15-20 incidences in Karachi alone each month, mainly in the multi-ethnic Lyari area. Similarly, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) puts the number of rapes of Hindu girls and women at between 20 and 25. Hindu girls targeted for rape are often forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. “The method of choice to convert the girls who are abducted,” says the AHRC, “is to have them marry within the Muslim community.”

In a rare, frank article in Pakistan’s Express Tribune this month, Ayesha Asghar laments that Hindu girls and women have not only been targeted for rape, but, afterward, have been “repeatedly silenced by those in the corridors of power.” “When one speaks about the rape of Muslim women, the clergy starts questioning women’s characters and shift blame away from the rapists,” Asghar says. “When one speaks of the rape of Hindu women, none of the clergy speaks up because their racism is at play here.”

While India has become the focus of attention relating to the sexual abuse of women in recent weeks, following the gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student, Pakaistan’s Hindus are fleeing to India in droves. Pakistan’s Dawn.com claims that, because of the forced conversion of Hindu girls, as well as other discriminations and crimes — such as attacks on Hindu temples — 3,000 Hindus fled for India in 2012 — a third more than the previous year. Yet, this modern-day ethnic cleansing is virtually unknown outside of Pakistan and India, and in neither of those countries is the plight of Hindus in Pakistan treated seriously.

Angel_headshot_smallAngel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.