Doctors confirmed that the Hindu girl kidnapped in Pakistan is a minor and freed her from her “husband.” But she was sent to a shelter home.
by Marco Respinti
There are new developments in the case of Chanda Maharaj, the 15-year-old Hindu girl who was kidnapped on August 12 in the Fateh Chowk area of Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan while she was walking home with her sister by Shaman Magsi, a Muslim man who had repeatedly tried to approach her. As it happened to dozens of other Pakistani girls from religious minorities, she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to her captor.
Initially, the police refused to take action on the complaint filed by her parents. Finally, after an international social media campaign that caught the attention of some local politicians, this month Chanda was rescued by police from her “husband” and taken to a shelter home. However, on October 20 a court ruled that her conversion and marriage were valid, and sent her back to her kidnapper Shaman Magsi.
Unlike in other cases, where the kidnapped girls are “persuaded” to confirm their conversion in court, Chanda cried desperately after the verdict. Her parents filed another complaint based on the fact that, irrespectively of the validity of her conversion to Islam, a 2019 law raised the minimum age for marriage to 18, and Chanda is 15. Her so-called husband countered that birth certificates are not reliable, and she is really 19.
The court asked a team of doctors to determine Chanda’s biological age. On October 29, they concluded that she is 16. Her parents and birth certificate insist she is 15, but the doctors agreed at any rate that she is a minor.
However, the court rather than returning Chanda to her home and parents placed the girl again in the shelter home, pending further investigation. Also, the court did not incriminate her kidnapper.
On October 31, the court told Chanda that she should remain in the shelter home for the time being. She testified that she was forced to have sexual relationships with her so-called husband, who is now investigated but not placed under arrest. The right of her parents to visit Chanda in the shelter home has also been limited.
It is clear that the case is political rather than merely legal. While unfortunately other girls from religious minorities are compelled to live with their kidnappers-“husbands,” Chanda has been saved from her abductor, although after she had already been forced to sexual relations with him. because of the street protests of the Pakistani Hindus and the international mobilization around her case (including by Bitter Winter).
We will continue to monitor her situation, and will not keep silent if justice will not be rendered to Chanda and her family.