There are many issues that fade in and out of discussion in our society. Some of these, occasionally shock people as figures are revealed, or stories told by victims surface to the fore. Otherwise, it is frightening how many people are oblivious to such basic problems relating to fundamental human rights. Take the matter of the forced conversion of Hindu girls. The crisis has rarely been discussed on the dozens of television talk shows, or at other forums which help shed some light on the priorities these issues should take. This in turn, of course, acts to worsen the suffering of marginalised communities, whose voices are rarely heard in a nation where silence prevails too often. The majority rarely speaks out for the minority, and this, of course, adds to their overwhelming sense of abandonment and isolation.
According to recent reports, Hindus — who make up around two per cent of the total population of the country — are being kidnapping and forced into marriage to Muslim men. Often times, they are even forced to convert to Islam. This trend has been increasing over the past decade and things appear only to be getting worse. In Karachi alone, 15 to 20 Hindu girls are being abducted each month, mainly from the Lyari area and wedded to Muslim men. Most are minors; some no more than 13 or 14 years old. The leaders of the Hindu community point out that they accept the right of adult women, aged over 18, to make their own choices as far as marriage is concerned, but they object to the kidnapping of younger girls. Reports indicate that seminary students are frequently involved in these practices, with the limited research carried out suggesting that these girls are then treated much like slaves.
We need to take much greater notice of the abuse inflicted on the minorities within our borders. Their condition is worsening rapidly; tens of thousands have already fled abroad and we should feel ashamed that we have failed so miserably to end the persecution they suffer.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2012.
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