A Pakistani girl named Jeevti, was only 14 when she was taken away from her family to marry a man who claimed her family owed him $1,000. Her mother, Ameri Kashi Kohli, is certain that Jeevti paid the price for their debt. According to Ameri, she and her husband borrowed roughly $500 (a little over PKR 50,000) when they first began working on the land. She claims the debt was paid. Such stories often emerge from southern Pakistan. Small loans even after being paid back result in a far more valuable loss.
Women like Ameri and her young daughter, are often treated as property, a collateral, a mark-up on a loan. Sometimes parents, burdened by an unforgiven debt, offer their daughters as payment. These women are like trophies to men. They take the prettiest, sometimes as wives, an on occasion just because they can. Ameri says,
I went to the police and to the court. But no one is listening to us. They told us, ‘your daughter has committed to Islam and you can’t get her back.
Ameri and her family are Hindus. According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, over 2 million Pakistani live as slaves bringing Pakistan in the top three countries that still enslave people. Another estimated places 1,000 young girls taken from their homes, converted to Islam and married every year. On the night Jeevti disappeared, the family had slept outside. No one heard anything, and in the morning she had gone. The family turned to Veero Kohli, an activist, to help free the girl. Kohli was born a slave and fled bondage in 1999. Since then, she devoted herself to challenging this vile, brutal disregard of basic human rights. Kohli says,
I know that they would like to kill me, but I will never stop fighting to free these people.
Kohli, with Ameri, went to the Piyaro Lundh police station to find Jeevti only to find the girl went willingly. She asked the police officers to let her speak with Jeevti if she went of her own free will. They refused. Instead, they called who Ameri claimed had taken her daughter, Hamid Brohi. He came alone. Kohli recalled Brohi saying that Ameri was payment for PKR 100,000 (roughly $1,000) they owed Brohi.
Kohli returned to the same police station to find Aqueel Ahmed, infuriated by the activist, shuffling through a stack of files and finally pulling out an affidavit. In it, Jeevti (now known as Fatima), said she converted of her free will and later married Brohi. She had also written that owing to her conversion to Islam, she could no longer meet her family because they were Hindus. The level of ignorance here regarding Islam is astounding.
Kohli and a foreign reporter are finally taken to visit the girl. Brohi greets the police with an embrace. He denies that he took Jeevti as repayment completely going against what he had said earlier at the police station. Inside, Jeevti is sitting on a double mattress set against the floor, her head in a black shawl. Her eyes laden with eyeshadow with a bright red lipstick on her lips – a child trying hard to look older. She doesn’t seem afraid, but she keeps looking at her husband while speaking sentences which seemed rehearsed. Jeevti says,
I married him because I wanted to. I myself asked him that as we are lovers, we should get married. So he said, ‘let’s get married,’ and I said yes.
She denies that she never met her mother since leaving, but she can’t say when was it that she last saw her mother. She doesn’t know where she lives. Ameri along with her family fled their old home. She has nothing to say when confronted about the court affidavit. She doesn’t know what is in the court documents.
The following day, Kohli and the reporter return, this time without the police escort. Only women are in the compound this time, and no one knows who Fatima (Jeevti) is. The door to the room where she sat just the day before was padlocked as if the compound was a mere stage for Jeevti’s short performance. No one knows where Jeevti is now, and no will ever know the truth behind her sudden marriage, conversion, and decision to not see her family.You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more updates. Otherwise fill in the subscription box above, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.