In yet another case of abduction for forced conversion to Islam and marriage, the police freed the girl but her future fate remains unclear.
by Marco Respinti
Kidnapping girls from religious minorities, forcibly converting them to Islam, and marrying them to Muslim men (often after they have been raped) is unfortunately a common occurrence in Pakistan. Last year, six Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations denounced the practice. To no avail.
The most recent, but certainly not the last, such incident concerns Jiji Bheel, a 11-year-old Hindu girl from Tando Allahyar in the Umerkot District of Sindh.
Jiji Bheel was abducted at gunpoint, by one Azim Ghumrani, a 40-year-old Muslim man. After a complaint by her father, Jiji’s was rescued by the police and taken temporarily to a female police facility. It was reported that her kidnapper was “questioned” but it is unclear whether he will be prosecuted.
The most disturbing detail is that, according to some reports supplied to “Bitter Winter,” the police claims that Jiji Bheel told the officers that she had “left home of her own free will.”
Why she is making this claim and under what threats she is from her captor and his associates is not known. However, if she is 11, under Pakistani law she cannot be married even with her hypothetical consent.
Jiji Bheel is, however, not safe. In similar cases, it is not uncommon that local courts give back kidnapped and rescued girls to their captors. Obtaining a birth certificate and proving it is genuine is not easy in rural Pakistan, particularly for people like Jiji Bheel’s parents, who are reportedly illiterate. Courts often determine the “biological age” of the girls through medical examinations. Unfortunately, we have already seen cases where minority religion girls have been declared 18 when all testimonies and even a simple look at the pictures make it clear that they are much younger.