PAKISTAN: The courts were complicit in the forced conversion to Islam of a young Hindu woman 

The forced conversion of women from the Hindu community to Islam in Sindh province has become very common. The malicious campaign is in full swing by the religious seminaries, the Madressa and their modus operandi is to use students of the seminaries to abduct the young women, particularly the girls and rape them in captivity and when it is identified that girl has been abducted by the persons from Madressa they announce that the victim is married and has embraced the Islam. Such elements have found friends in the judiciary who always support forced conversion on the basis of an Islamic marriage certificate, the Nikah Naama.

In the cases of forced marriages the courts even allow marriage to the already married woman without following the teachings of Islam and Muslim personal laws of the country that declare such marriages as against Islam and as Haram (Illegitimate).

There is a case study of one Hindu young woman, Mrs Anita, the wife of Suresh Kumar, who was allowed by the Supreme Court to live with her new Muslim husband without cancelling her previous marriage with her Hindu husband. The way in which the case of Anita was treated in the High and Supreme Court was no more different from the ordinary Jirga or Panchayat, where the elders of tribes sit down and decide the case on the basis of personal liking or disliking.

Anit, (22), the mother of two children, was abducted on April 27 from her house, situated at Mohalla Surya, Moro, district Nau Shahroferoz, Sindh province, when her Hindu husband, Suresh Kumar, was not at home. The two children, one boy of four years and one girl of 22 months were beaten up by the abductors and were locked in the house. The police registered case after tremendous efforts of the Hindu community, the police of Moro were saying that she must have ran away on her own wish because her character would be like that. In the FIR one Mr. Pervez Ali Naich son of Ghulam Hussain and others were mentioned as the abductors from Mirpur Mathelow, district Ghotki, around two hundred kilometers away from her house. In the meantime the Hindu community then filed a habeas corpus petition in the Sindh High Court Sukkur bench, on May 5, where on the next hearing on May 7 only the lawyers from the abductors appeared. The lawyer from the Hindu community asked the court to produce the victim and the court replied that when the lawyer representing the main abductor is present then there is no need for her appearance in the court. The lawyer of the perpetrator, Pervez Ali, produced the Nikah Naama, the Muslim marriage certificate and some papers from the session court of Sadiqabad, from Punjab province. The court has never asked from his lawyer the case was from Sindh province and why a decision was taken from Punjab province. The court after seeing the marriage certificate announced that she had embraced Islam by marrying a Muslim man. Whereas, the lawyer of the victim said that she should be produced in the High Court so that she can testify as to this but court relied on the decision of a session court and Muslim marriage certificate and dismissed the case.

The Hindu community then went in appeal to the Supreme Court on the 22 July, 2011 where a two member double bench, consisting of Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, heard the appeal and asked that Anita and her husband be present in the court. When perpetrator with his Muslim wife, her name had been changed from Anita to Aneela Fatima Pervez, after becoming Muslim. The perpetrator came to the Supreme court with many of his family members and friends who were also armed as she told later to her Hindu husband on the telephone. When she was produced she was not asked to give her statement but she was first asked to recite the Kalma (Islamic testimony or the Islamic declaration of faith) before taking her statement as to whether she wants to live with new husband or she was forced to marry. The court was full of the relatives of the Muslim abductor so she first saw the audience and after a while she recited the Kalma. The court declared that she is now Muslim. Then she was asked whether she wants to go with her Muslim husband and according to her Hindu husband she saw her children who were crying at that time but suddenly she saw the relatives of her new husband were looking at her with threatening gestures. She said before the court that she wanted to live with her Muslim husband.

At this moment the lawyer from the Hindu community, Mr. Amar Naath, the vice chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, asked the court to allow her to speak freely and without fear so that she can decide but court ignored the suggestion. The lawyer also requested the court that it would be better that she should be sent to Darul Aman, an official shelter house for women, for some days and the court can call her next hearing. She would then be in a better position to tell her will. The court ruled that she has recited Kalma so she is Muslim and embraced the Islam and dismissed the petition.

Here, the Asian Human Rights Commission does not want to criticize the proceedings of the courts but wants to raise some basic questions related to fair trial and laws about marriages.

Aneela Fatima Pervez, her name has been changed from Anita after her marriage, has never been provided a secure and safe atmosphere for recording her consent. First, she was never produced before the Sindh High Court but the court relied on the confirmation of marriage by the Sessions court from another province of Punjab. Why did the court not ask the perpetrator if he had confirmation from the any court in the Sindh province? In any way the consent from the victim should have been taken rather than relying on the recitation of the Kalma. In Pakistan every member of the religious minorities are taught the Kalma in the education centers and schools. Therefore it is not a new thing for ordinary citizens to know the Kalma as mosques recite the Kalma through their loudspeakers.

What is the status of a woman who was already married? How can the new marriage be condoned unless she breaks the previous marriage or receives a divorce in order to be allowed to live with her second husband? According to Pakistani law, the Muslim personal laws, one woman cannot marry with another person without taking a divorce from the previous husband. Such marriages are called as illegal or Haram and police can file a case of illegal marriage as the police have done in many cases of marriage when a woman marries on her own wish. In these types of love marriage cases the parents of the girls bring some fictitious marriage certificate and implicate the husbands of the girls in abduction and Zina (rape and adultery).

Can the courts ignorance of the second marriage of a still-married-woman be taken as legalizing the rape and adultery? Why have the courts ignored this important point that Islam does not and will never allow such marriages? Maybe answer would be that the judges simply became more sentimental Muslims than judicial officers when they saw that through an illegal way a woman is included in Islam. So judges have decided to be a Muslim judge rather than a judicial judge.

In the cases of Muslim women’s second marriages the courts have never allowed women to do so without taking a divorce from last one and at least more than three months she should have to confine herself in her house as her Iddat Period, a period in which it is ascertained as to whether she was pregnant with her pervious husband. But the question again is, whether higher courts have ever asked her to prove that she spent the Iddat days or not. The woman has to serve Iddat days in the cases of divorce or the death of her husband and during these days she cannot allowed meeting any male person who is out of her close family.

If her embracement to Islam through abduction and rape was recognized by the courts and courts were happy to see her as converting to Islam, then why have the courts not seen the fundamental requirements of Islam? Maybe laws are different for different occasions or maybe Hindus are not treated as citizens of Pakistan.

The religious minority’s hope from the courts is shattered by such decisions where the Muslim seminaries have been allowed to perpetuate freely. In the Sindh province where Hindus are residing in good numbers they are generally victimized by the mushrooming growth of the Madressas which are very much active in forced conversion to Islam through abduction. The decision of courts in the case of Anita will obviously encourage the religious zealots to speedily convert the Hindu women by abduction and rape and use the court’s rulings in their favour.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-176-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Freedom of religion,