A medical certificate puts again the Pakistani Hindu girl at risk of being delivered back to the man who forcibly converted her to Islam, raped, and “married” her.
by Marco Respinti
Bitter Winter has played an important role in the campaign for Chanda Maharaj, which has become a symbol of hundreds of Pakistani girls from religious minorities who are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to their Sunni Muslim captors.
Chanda is a 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. Her kidnapper was Shaman Magsi, a Muslim man who had repeatedly tried to approach her.
Initially, the police refused to take action on the complaint filed by her parents. Finally, after an international campaign that caught the attention of some local politicians, in October 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.
Chanda’s parents filed another complaint based on the fact that, irrespectively of the validity of her conversion to Islam, a 2019 Pakistani law had raised the minimum age for marriage to 18, and Chanda is 15. They produced a birth certificate, but the judges objected that in Pakistan these certificates are not reliable. The court asked a team of doctors to determine Chanda’s biological age. On October 29, they concluded that she is 16.
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, despite the fact that Chanda testified that she was forced to have sexual relationship with him—for all practical purposes, she was raped.
On October 31, the court told Chanda that she should remain in the shelter home for the time being, although she had clearly expressed that she wants to go home to her parents.
The hearing where it should be determined whether Chanda should be returned to their parents was adjourned several times and finally scheduled for December 15. At that date, representatives of the kidnapper “husband” filed a second medical certificate that claims she is “between 17 and 18.”
The main judge being absent, the hearing should be rescheduled once again. The parents are very much afraid that the second certificate may carry some weight and Chanda will be returned to her kidnapper and rapist. Once again, only an international mobilization may save the young girl.