ASIA/PAKISTAN - Catholic girl raped by a Muslim

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Faisalabad (Agenzia Fides) - Gulfam, a nine year old Catholic girl, was raped by a Muslim man in the district of Samundari Tehsil, in the district of Faisalabad. Today the child is in shock and in the throes of a physical and psychological trauma.

Fides received a report of the incident from the local Church, expressing its deep concern at the conditions of the poorest Christian families, victims of discrimination, violence and abuse. “The incident is terrifying. I met the victims and I expressed my regret to them. I believe we must consider a pastoral and legal strategy, in an effort to stem the phenomenon of the abuse of Christian girls,” said Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad in an exclusive interview with Fides.

Gulfam (which means “like a flower”) is 9 years old (her surname is not revealed out of respect and decency to the family) and is enrolled in the third grade. She lives in village number 226 in the district of Tehsil Samundari. On 10 December she returned from school and her sister-in-law, wanting to make chapatti (bread used in Pakistan) sent her, along with her cousin of seven years, to collect wood in a nearby sugarcane field. After a short time the child came home and revealed that Gulfam had been taken and dragged by a man into that field. When relatives arrived on the ground they caught the man who abused the child red-handed, who immediately fled. Gulfam's mother took the girl, half-naked, home. Then the parents went to the police and reported the rape. The man was arrested. But the family is terrified because the village is mainly Muslim. The relatives of the rapist have already tried to intimidate and threaten the family of Gulfam to withdraw the charges. The girl said the man had offered her money and at her refusal, he took her by force, taping over her mouth and raping her. He also told her “not to worry because he had done the same service to other young Christian girls.”

“It is shameful. Such incidents occur frequently. Christian girls are considered goods to be damaged at leisure. Abusing them is a right. According to the community's mentality it is not even a crime. Muslims regard them as spoils of war,” local sources report to Fides.

Gulfam is now under the care of some Catholic women religious. The same sisters tearfully told Fides of their outrage and pain for little Gulfam and for the other Christian girls abused by wealthy Muslims.

Fides has just recently reported this phenomenon in the cases of Lubna Masih and Kiran Nayyaz (see Fides 13/10/2010). According to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) abductions and sexual violence against Christian and Hindu girls are increasing in the Country, often at the end of conversions and forced marriages. Most cases go unpunished. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/12/2010)