This is a story of a 15-year old girl, who in her short 15 years has gone through many more hardships than most of us face in a lifetime. At the age of 13, Valyan Kolhi became a victim of repeated rape, the trauma that leaves a girl scarred for life regardless of where she’s from, who the rapist is, or what the medical consequences are. Valyan’s rape story is not unique. This year alone, GHRD has been monitoring over 20 cases of abductions, forced conversions or forced marriages.
Valyan was first repeatedly raped in December 2013 after being abducted from her rented family house by the nephew of the landlord, Shabir Khaskheli. This incident took place in the Samaro district of Sindh province. Recently many more cases of sexual violence and forced conversion are registered in the Sindh province.
Valyan Kolhi’s parents are professional farmers, previously employed by a landlord, Babu Khaskheli. Part of their job is to water the fields at night. During this time, Valyan, her younger brother and sister are usually left at home alone, since the parents are unable to financially afford any help to watch over the kids. One such night, Shabir Khakheli entered the house where the children were left alone, while the parents were working in the fields.
Shabir Khakheli abducted Valyan, covering her face with a towel so that she could not call out for help. Khakeli was armed with an axe to ensure girl’s compliance. He took her to the dairy farm nearby and raped her there. Repeatedly. After the rape, he returned Valyan to her house, while her parents were still at work. Like many rape victims worldwide, Valyan was scared to admit what was done to her, let alone openly talk about it to her parents or the police. What made matters worth is the cultural stigma attached to rape victims in Pakistan, which not only makes the girls outcasts, but also diminishes any prospects for marriage in the future.
The rape cycle continued after the first incident. Valyan was repeatedly abducted and raped at night without anyone paying attention, until one day she became pregnant.
During the 4th month of pregnancy, Valyan started feeling pain in her abdomen. Her mother took her to the nearest clinic where doctor broke the news of pregnancy to them both. Feeling ashamed, confused and scared, Valyan confessed what she had been going through in the last couple of months to her parents. Infuriated with the injustice done to their little girl, and confused as to how to deal with the problem, Valyan’s parents went to discuss the situation with their landlord. The landlord, however, refused to listen to Valyan’s parents, and immediately evicted them from his property, forcing the family to seek another place to call home.
The parents were unable to take any legal action due to the police referral to the landlord without registering the incident. Such treatment by the law enforcement agents is, unfortunately, the harsh realities mane of the victims face in Pakistan. Facing no prospects of justice and with an intention of avoiding any physical danger to the family members, Valyan’s parents had nothing left but to accept the situation and move to another area.
When Valyan was in her 7th month of pregnancy, she delivered a baby boy. Without proper medical care, the prematurely born boy died within two hours.
With the support of a social activist, one of GHRD’s local legal partners, Valyan was able to get married to a well-suited man, the best and only positive option left for an underage rape victim in Pakistan according to local cultural norms and practices.
Three months after the wedding our local partner went to visit the newlyweds, who seemed be to happy to be together. Despite the difficulties the couple had previously faced, they are now focused on what they are hoping will be a long and happy future together. Valyan is happy, highly positive and optimistic about her current situation. Her strength of character and positive attitude are truly admirable.
However happy Valyan may be, it is in her interest as much as it is in any other vulnerable girl of the Pakistani community that perpetrators like Shabir Khaskheli are arrested and prosecuted. The reality, nonetheless, proves this close to impossible: till this day Shabir Khaskheli has managed to escape justice and no legal action has been taken against him. Until he is free, Valyan remains the prisoner of the system.
Although dreary, such abuses happen in Pakistan on a daily basis. Due to extremely public indifference and societal discrimination, minority group members are unable to take any legal action against perpetrators of rape, forced marriages and conversions, and are forced to accept a complete lack of justice.