Shotgun marriages | Pakistan Today

Shotgun marriages

Tragic plight of Sindhi Hindu family
The circumstances surrounding the latest kidnapping, conversion and marriage of two underage sisters belonging to the country’s largest minority community, followed the familiar notorious pattern of past such cases, which are now reportedly happening at the express rate of twenty five a month. The current incident at Ghotki in rural Sindh occurred on one of Hinduism’s major festivals, the carnival of Holi which fell on 20-21 March. But on this joyous occasion, two sisters belonging to the minority community were allegedly kidnapped, forcibly converted, spirited to bordering Punjab province and duly married off, all in a paroxysm of sudden frenzied activity, as though the perpetrators themselves were guiltily aware of the illegality of their actions. As is also a sad constant in these cases, the sisters sought court protection against their own family, insisting their actions were voluntary and free-will. The convenient wedlock in Punjab was apparently forced by the provisions of the Sindh Child Marriages Act which forbids marriage under the age of eighteen in Sindh province.
But this time there has been a vigorous and genuinely outraged reaction. PM Imran Khan, who as aspiring candidate in 2018 general elections, promised minorities the moon, has ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to take immediate steps for recovery of the sisters and ensure end of future such incidents, human rights and civil society activists have also protested vociferously, the victim family has lodged a First Information Report of abduction and kidnapping, and reportedly some facilitators have since been arrested. The Pakistan Hindu Council’s chief patron, also a PTI lawmaker, has proposed the revival, in the next Sindh Assembly session, of the forced conversion bill which was passed unanimously in 2016, but not ratified. The matter has also assumed regional dimensions with the Sushma Swaraj (ironically a stalwart of BJP, with their own chauvinistic ‘Ghar Wapsi’) and Fawad Chaudhry duo battling it out on the media and point scoring front, but ultimately the internet video of the grieving father groaning and bewailing his missing daughters is enough to move the hardest hearts. An effective legislative and judicial mechanism is needed either to prevent outright or prove authenticity of these dubious conversion-marriage cases.