HAF Launches Petition "Tell Pakistan: Free Arti Kumari Sharma Immediately"

Washington, DC (September 19, 2017) — In an effort to send the Government of Pakistan a loud and clear message that the rights of Arti Kumari Sharma must be upheld and the laws of Pakistan must be upheld, HAF has started a petition: Free Arti Kumari Sharma Immediately.

Please sign and share with everyone in your network. It will automatically be sent to the Governor of Sindh and members of the Sindh government, as well as the Pakistan embassy in Washington, DC.

When sharing this petition and discussing Arti’s situation we suggest using the follow hashtags:

  • #FreeArtiKumari
  • #IAmArtiKumari
  • #Pakistan
  • #ForcedReligiousConversion
  • #WomensRights
  • #Women
  • #Girls
  • #AgainstHerWill

If you need inspiration in how best to express the situation on social media, we suggest the following…

  • #Pakistan must #FreeArtiKumari! No more #ForcedReligiousConversion of #women and #girls! Sign this petition now.
  • #FreeArtiKumari! Taken #AgainstHerWill. #Pakistan needs to STOP #ForcedReligiousConversion! Sign this petition now.
  • #Women’sRightsNow! Tell #Pakistan to #FreeArtiKumari! Stop Abductions of #women and #girls now! Sign this petition today.
  • I just told #Pakistan to #FreeArtiKumari. Stop #ForcedReligiousConversion of #women and girls! Sign this petition now.
  • #IAmArtiKumari! End #ForcedReligiousConversion of #women and #girls in #Pakistan now! Sign this petition today.
  • #IAmArtiKumari! #Pakistan must end #ForcedReligiousConversion of #women and #girls now! Sign this petition today.
  • #IAmArtiKumari taken #AgainstHerWill. #Pakistan stop #ForcedReligious Conversion of #women & #girls! Sign this petition today.

Of course, feel free to put these in your own words and modify to best express your outrage about Arti’s situation.

Below is the full text of the petition:

“I demand that Arti Kumari Sharma, a 20 year-old Hindu woman from Khairpur District, be allowed to return to her family immediately. Arti, who is engaged to be married this November, was abducted at gunpoint on September 9th, forced to convert to Islam and marry a man she didn’t know. Her human rights must be upheld. Pakistan’s laws must be upheld.”

On September 9, Arti Kumari Sharma, a 20 year-old Hindu woman and school teacher, was on her way home when Ammer Wassan, a local landlord, kidnapped her at gunpoint.

Arti was taken to a mosque where she was forcibly converted to Islam and engaged to be married, against her will, to a man named Amir Bux. She was forced to sign an affidavit stating she willing got engaged to Bux and voluntarily converted to Islam.

Heartbroken and fighting with all that they have, Arti’s family has taken the case to the local police to no avail. Now, a court will decide Arti’s future. Unimaginably, the court is forcing Arti to stay with her “husband” until the hearing date of September 29th — a postponement from the original September 12th date.

Imagine what Arti’s life must be like right now — and what it will continue to be like if the court rules against her and her family. Abducted at gunpoint, forced to marry a stranger, forced to adopt his religion, and forced to relinquish all ties to the only family she has ever known, Arti is at the complete mercy of her “husband.”

Arti is being denied her basic civil rights and freedom.

Art is being denied her freedom of conscience and religion.

Both Pakistani and international human rights are being flagrantly violated.

We need YOU to help ramp up public pressure on the government of Pakistan to ensure that Arti Kumari Sharma is allowed to return to her family immediately.

We need YOU to help ensure that her human rights are upheld, and that the Pakistan’s own laws are followed.

You can help.

Your voice will send the government of Pakistan a clear message that the rights of women must be protected, freedom of religion must be protected, and the serious problem of women and girls being abducted and forcefully converted and married off to strangers will not be tolerated.

Sign this petition today!

There are unfortunately countless other women and girls in Arti’s situation.

As the Hindu American Foundation has documented in its annual human rights report, minority women in Pakistan are particularly vulnerable to violence and have been subject to discrimination, harassment, and sexual assaults. Abductions and forced conversions, in particular, are the most serious problem facing Hindu and Christian women and girls. Often, after being abducted, these girls are forcibly married to strangers, raped, sold, or forced into prostitution.

Threatened into silence and fearful for the safety of their families, the girls are then taken to a local court by their abductors, where the judge usually sanctions the legality of the marriage and conversion. Further, many of the girls are between the ages of 12 and 18, well below the legal age for marriage (16 years for girls) and unable to comprehend the process.

Although there are no definitive statistics on the number of incidents, many NGOs and human rights groups, including Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) and the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, have estimated that more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam annually.

In an attempt to address the issue, the Sindh provincial legislature adopted the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill in November 2016 to criminalize forced conversions. The bill made it a punishable offense for anyone to force a child under 18 years of age to change their religion and enter into a marriage. The Protection of Minorities Bill was designed to protect the rights of vulnerable girls. In January 2017, however, the bill was rejected and returned by the Sindh Governor under pressure from religious extremists.

For a more extensive and full footnoted account of abductions and forced conversions in Pakistan (as well as other issues facing minority communities), read: Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A survey of human rights, 2017

Further reading
Stalled commission in Sindh
Forced conversions of Hindu girls in Pakistan make a mockery of its constitution
Forced conversion, marriage and the endless cycle of misogyny
Hindu today, Muslim tomorrow