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Friday, June 9, 2023

Pakistani court orders FIR against those involved in forced conversion and marriage of 13-year-old Gudi Bheel

Gudi, d/o Longio Bheel, a 13-year-old minor Hindu girl was abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to her abductor Afaq Apan in a village near Hala, Matiari district of Sindh, Pakistan.

Her parents—devastated in the wake of the abduction—immediately filed a petition (990/2023) at the Session Court Hyderabad, through their lawyer Advocate Bago Mal Bheel, seeking justice and the safe return of their daughter.

On March 25, 2023, the Sessions Judge Qazi Abdul Hakeem gave an order to register a First Information Report (FIR) against all involved in Gudi’s forced conversion and marriage, including the Molvi (Muslim cleric) and witnesses, under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013. The favorable decision was welcomed by members of the Hindu community and human rights activists, who have long been calling for stricter laws to protect the rights of minorities in the country.

Conversion certifate of minor Gudi Bheel, illegally issued by oath commissioner (Image Source: Naranin Das Bheel)

Unfortunately, the case of Gudi is not unique. At least one thousand girls from minority communities, especially Hindus, are abducted, converted to Islam, and married off to their abductors in Pakistan on a yearly basis. What is more, perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes often go unpunished; victims and families are bullied and coerced into submission. This is mainly because the law, i.e. the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, prohibiting the marriage of minors, has not been sufficiently implemented.

Advocate Bago mal with family of Gudi (Image Source: Bago Mal’s Facebook account)

The incident, however, elucidates the need for more effective laws and implementation mechanisms to protect minority rights. It is also necessary to raise awareness of the issue by engaging religious leaders, civil society organizations, and the media. Only such efforts and international pressure will create a strong foundation for Pakistan to realize its basic duty towards its persecuted non-Muslim minorities.

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