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Pakistan: Minor Hindu girl Sohana Sharma Kumari abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man, court refuses to let her return to her family

Sohana was brought to the district court in Larkana, where she told the judge in her statement that she had been abducted and forced to convert to Islam and wanted to return to her parents, but the court sent her to a women's shelter home instead

Pakistan continues to inflict atrocities on the religious minorities residing there as yet another minor Hindu girl was abducted on June 2, 2023, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man. Adding to her anguish, despite her appeals, a Pakistani court refused to allow her to return to her parents.

A 14-year-old girl named Sohana Sharma Kumari was abducted from her home in the Benazirabad district of Sindh province. She was kidnapped at gunpoint by her tutor and his aides in front of her mother. Sohana’s father Dilip Kumar, filed a police report alleging that she had been abducted. Later, Sohana appeared in a video clearly stating that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man under pressure. Her parents, on the other hand, argued that she was a minor.

After much outrage on social media, authorities retrieved the minor Hindu girl from a residence in the district five days after she was abducted.

On Friday, June 9, Sohana was brought to the district court in Larkana, where she told the judge in her statement that she had been abducted and forced to convert to Islam. She also expressed her wish to return to her parents.

The judge, however, adjourned the case until June 12 since she appeared to be under ‘pressure’ when giving her statement and remanded her to a women’s shelter home. It is notable that there have been many similar cases wherein the victim girls have stated that they want to go back to their parents, however, the courts in Pakistan send them to shelter homes.

Sohana’s mother, Jamna Sharma, informed the media at court that her daughter was taking home tuition and that the teacher had told her a few days ago that he required a loan of Rs 100,000.

“When my daughter informed me of this, I told the teacher that he should not be talking about such matters with Sohana, and he left.” Then after a day, he came back with some people and forcefully took her away at gunpoint. “I begged him to take the money and jewellery but leave my daughter. But those people did not listen,” Jamna recalled.

Sohana’s father stated to the media that the accused presented fake documents to claim in the court that she had converted to Islam of her own free will and married a Muslim man.

“I don’t know how government officials can stamp such documents when the girl is 14 years old,” he said.

Sohana Kumari Sharma’s forceful conversion and marriage case rocks Sindh Assembly

Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Lal Chand Ukrani raised the issue of Sohana Sharma Kumari’s abduction and forced conversion to Islam in the Sindh Assembly on Friday.

During his speech, Ukrani deemed the incident cruel and stated that no religion allowed forced marriages or conversions. He said that a 14-year-old Hindu girl was kidnapped in Qazi Ahmad and that her marriage certificate was afterwards furnished.

“We respect every religion, but it is not appropriate to change someone’s religion by force,” he added, adding that the episode sparked widespread outrage across the province.

Meanwhile, Provincial Minister Giyan Chand Essrani described the situation as tragic.

“There is a law that a girl under the age of 18 cannot change her religion and cannot marry,” he stated, adding that he was in frequent contact with the provincial police chief in this respect.

Mangla Sharma, MPA of the MQM-P stated that the victim girl was a class eight student who was compelled to convert to Islam and do nikah with a Muslim man.

“She is my relative, please have mercy on her,” she stressed in a raspy voice and teary eyes.

Kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam in Sindh have become a matter of grave concern for  Pakistani Hindus.

There has been an upsurge in such cases in Sindh in recent months, with lower courts overwhelmed with applications from afflicted parents demanding justice and the return of their abducted women.

Recently, OpIndia reported that a 9-year-old Hindu girl was kidnapped from her house in May this year by a 55-year-old man in Sindh province who forcibly convert her to Islam and perform Nikah with her.

124 non-Muslim women forcibly converted to Islam in 2022: Report

Notably, a recent Human Rights Observer 2023 fact sheet revealed that in the year 2022, as many as 124 women belonging to minority communities were forcefully converted to Islam in the Islamic country. Out of this, 81 were Hindu, 42 were Christian and one was Sikh.

Further, the fact sheet revealed that 23 percent of girls were below 14 years of age, 36 percent of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12 percent of the victims were adults, while the age of 28 percent of the victims was not reported.

Infographic via Centre for Social Justice website

In 2022, 65% of cases of forced religious conversion were reported in Sindh, 33% in Punjab, and 0.8% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, respectively.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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