GHRD is currently working on the case of Kajal Bheel. Kajal is a 12-year-old girl from the Sindh province in Pakistan. On the 21st of October this year, Kajal was home alone with her brother when the perpetrators broke into the family house and abducted Kajal. Her uncle witnessed the incident from across the street but could not intervene as the perpetrators were carrying weapons.
Her parents later found out that their daughter had been forcefully married to one of the perpetrators and tried to lodge a First Investigation Report (FIR). However, the police were unwilling to help them. The family was summoned to the court where man unknown to them handed over a marriage certificate on which Kajal’s name had been changed.
Child marriages and forced conversions are illegal in Pakistan, and minors (people under the age of 18) are not allowed to marry. Because of this Kajal has been ordered by court to take a medical exam to prove that she is 12 years old, despite having a valid birth certificate. The medical exam stated she is 17 (which means she is still a minor). Nevertheless, the judge has decided to apply Sharia law instead of The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act and according to Sharia law, a girl is considered to be an adult as soon as she reaches puberty. Therefore, the court is claiming Kajal is an adult and there is no claim to a legal case, as Kajal has given evidence in court that she wanted to marry the perpetrator. However, there is reason to believe she was pressured to make this statement as the perpetrator was present during the court session.
Kajal’s second court hearing was supposed to be held on December 3rd. However, it was postponed as the judge felt he did not want to deal with the case anymore. The following court hearing was supposed to be held on December 9th. The court hearing was once again postponed until the 19th of December; during which two other similar cases on forced conversions will also take place. At present, Kajal is still with her perpetrators.
Demonstrations and seminars have been held in the Sindh province of Pakistan in order to stand up against forced conversions and child marriages and raise awareness. Tomorrow, December 10th, demonstrations will be held in Washington D.C. on the same topic.
We have seen many similar cases like the one of Kajal. It is very common for young girls to be the victim of abduction, forceful marriages and religious conversions. The only way to stop this is to put pressure on the national government and encourage them to take action against forced conversions of young girls.
You can sign the petition here: http://ghrd.org/get-involved/petitions/save-kajal/
You can also follow the hash tag #SaveKajal on Facebook and Twitter in order to stay updated.