HYDERABAD: The family of an underage Hindu girl from Tharparkar has claimed that she was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man. The girl and her husband, however, have filed a petition in Sindh High Court seeking protection and declaring the conversion and marriage consensual.
Ravita Meghwadh, a teenager, reportedly converted to Islam on June 6 and changed her name to Gulnaz. On the same day, she married Syed Nawaz Ali Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in union council Samaro in Umerkot, according to Shah and his family.
However, Ravita’s family denies this and has accused Shah of kidnapping her.
“She was abducted from her house and forcibly married to a man twice her age,” said her father Satram alias Satio Meghwadh who lodged the FIR of the kidnapping at Nano Dandal police station in Nangarparkar, Tharparkar four days ago.
The FIR lodged under Section 365-B of Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with kidnapping to compel a woman to marry against her will, names four people: Shah (the husband), Madad Ali Shah, Umar Junejo and Sheru Junejo.
The family claims Ravita is underage based on a primary school certificate, which mentions her date of birth as July 14, 2001, making her about 16 years old.
The school leaving certificate available with The Express Tribune
Ravita’s brother-in-law, Lajpat Meghwadh, who married her elder sister on April 29 this year said:“My wife is barely 18 years old. How can her younger sister be an adult?”
Interestingly, the marriage registrar has mentioned Shah’s year of birth as 1980, and national identity card number on the marriage certificate, but Ravita’s age has been written as “approximately 18” and her NIC number not mentioned. Similarly, the certificate of conversion to Islam also does not mention her date of birth and NIC number, listing her age as “approximately 18.”
Certificate of conversion available with The Express Tribune
Lajpat alleged that Ravita was kidnapped to force the Meghwadh family to leave the village.
“Our family has just four houses in the village. Some men from Syed and Junejo communities, who dominate the village population, kidnapped her and asked us to leave the village through some intermediaries,” he claimed.
Lajpat further said that Ravita didn’t use a cell phone and that she had remained restricted to the house after completing her primary education. “Unlike other women, she never left home to fetch water from the well or worked as a maid in anyone’s home,” he said.
Shah could not be reached for his version. However, he and his wife told the local media in Kunri, Umerkot that they married of their free will and accused the Meghwadh family of issuing threats to Shah and his family.
Advocate Bhagwandas told The Express Tribune that the Meghwadh family is also filing a petition in Sindh High Court against the marriage. He said the marriage was solemnised in violation of Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013, which was passed by Sindh Assembly in April 2014.
The law restricts the registration of marriages of people below 18 years of age. An offence under this act is cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable with a punishment of up to three years in jail for the groom, person solemnising such marriage and even the family of the man and woman tying the knot.
According to the local police station’s SHO Qurban Rajpar, the police are not arresting people nominated in the FIR because of the SHC’s notice.