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Abducted and Converted : 20 Year Old Hindu Girl Arti Kumari Sharma Falls Victim to Jihadis in Sindh, Pakistan

Arti’s case is not the first of its kind. Hundreds of Hindu girls are being kidnapped, raped and converted every month

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Hundreds of Hindu and Christian girls and women are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam annually. (representative image) Pixabay

Washington, DC, September 12, 2017 — The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has called for the immediate release of Arti Kumari Sharma, a 20 year-old Hindu woman who was kidnapped at gunpoint this past Saturday near her home in Khairpur District in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.

Arti’s uncle, Kishwar Sharma, a Houston resident and native of Pakistan, recently escaped religious persecution in Pakistan to immigrate to the US.

“I am deeply distraught to find out my niece was kidnapped at gunpoint near her house,” said Sharma. “Arti is engaged to be married in November and is the second girl to be kidnapped in my family.”

Arti, a teacher at Qasim Model School, was abducted on her way home by a Muslim landlord, Ammer Wassan, taken to a local mosque where she was forcibly converted to Islam and married against her will to a man named Amir Bux. She was also reportedly coerced into signing an affidavit claiming that she married Bux and converted out of her own free will.

Despite her family filing a First Information Report with local police, Arti has not been allowed to return home and will be brought before the Sindh High Court on September 12.

Arti Kumari
Arti Kumari Sharma. Twiter

“Arti’s basic civil rights and freedom have been flagrantly violated, in contradiction of Pakistani law and international human rights law,” said Rishi Bhutada, HAF Board Member and Houston resident. “We urge the Sindh High Court to order the immediate release and safe return of Arti to her family.”

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 and women are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam annually. The courts and legal system in Pakistan are often complicit in sanctioning this practice by accepting false documents and statements obtained through force, threats, or coercion.

The Foundation has extensively documented this trend and other human rights violations against Pakistani Hindus in its annual human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2017.

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UN Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn Warns Against LGBTQ Rights Violations

"More than 70 countries around the world today still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some of them the death penalty may be applied," believes Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN' first independent expert on the rights of LGBT

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A protester to support all students sign from National Center for transgender equality, Source : Wikimedia

United Nations, October 28, 2017 : Immediate action is needed to stop human rights violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a UN human rights expert has said.

“It is unconscionable that people with an actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression different from a particular social norm are targeted for violence and discrimination in many parts of the world,” said Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’ first independent expert on the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

“LGBT people are suffering a crucible of egregious violations, including killings, rape, mutilation, torture, arbitrary detention, abduction, harassment, physical and mental assaults.

“They are subjected to lashings and forced surgical interventions, bullying from a young age, incitement to hatred and pressures leading to suicide,” he told the UN General Assembly on Friday.

“More than 70 countries around the world today still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some of them the death penalty may be applied,” Xinhua quoted Muntarbhorn as saying.

Even where there is no law criminalising consensual same-sex relations, laws on public decency, public order and social peace are used to incriminate people under the umbrella of sexual orientation, gender identity and related gender expression, he noted.

Muntarbhorn who is from Thailand said all laws criminalising same-sex relationships should be removed from the statute books, and no other legal measures should be used to target sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for the purpose of consolidating power and suppressing dissent.

It was also imperative to remove the death penalty for all cases related to the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity and related gender expression, he stressed.

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“There is a need for effective anti-discrimination measures covering both the public and private spheres. Not only formal but substantive, not only de jure but also de facto, in addition to the building of a community open to understanding and respecting sexual and gender diversity,” said the expert.

To be effective, anti-discrimination frameworks should provide for effective measures to investigate alleged violations, redress for victims and accountability for alleged perpetrators, he said.

Muntarbhorn also expressed concern that human rights defenders were being increasingly targeted for their work in raising issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. (IANS)

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Hindu American Foundation Celebrates Hindu Heritage by Commemorating Awareness and Appreciation Month

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Hindu American Foundation
The essence of bhakti is devotion to a personal form of the Divine. HAF

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a non-profit advocacy organization for the Hindu American community is celebrating October as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation month.

Hindu American Foundation has been officially recognized by the state of California. But you don’t have to live in California to celebrate our heritage!

Join us this year in using this unique opportunity to educate others about Hindu teachings and traditions, including the true meaning of yoga in order to ensure the well-being of for all people around the world.

Hindu Awareness & Appreciation Month:

  • Recognizes contributions of Hindu culture and spirituality to American life.
  • Allows our children to feel proud of their Hindu identity as Americans.
  • Allows the broader American society to understand and appreciate Hindu Americans and Hindu traditions.
  • Promotes diversity and pluralism

When most people say they do yoga, what they’re really talking about is asana. But is just one of the eight limbs of yoga as explained by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. Of course, Yoga is so much more, and no one knows this better than Hindus around the world.

For Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month, HAF invites you to participate in all four paths of yoga to share the broader meaning of yoga and demonstrate the power yoga has to ensure the wellbeing of all people and the planet.

For each of these, please share what you’re doing on social media, using the hashtags #HinduAmericans, #HAAAM, #karmayoga, #bhaktiyoga, #rajayoga, #jnanayoga, #yogabeyondasana, and be sure to tag HAF @HinduAmerican

Yoga is so much more, and no one knows this better than Hindus around the world. HAF

10/1-10/8: Bhakti Yoga

The path of love: The essence of bhakti is devotion to a personal form of the Divine. It opens up opportunities for every individual to develop a love for the Divine, and ultimately recognize the Divine in everything and everyone. This week practice bhakti yoga by:

  • Learning to sing a new bhajan or committing to singing a favorite every day this week with your family.
  • Visiting your local temple and reading a story about a presiding deity or the story of great devotees such as Prahlad, Akka Mahadevi, or Meerabai as a family.
  • Volunteering at or donating to a local animal shelter recognizing that all of Creation shares the same divine spark and is thus deserving of love and dignity

10/9-10/15: Karma Yoga

The path of work: Performing selfless service, doing work without expectation of reward and holding the Divine in your mind and heart, is the essence of karma yoga. This week practice karma yoga by:

  • Cleaning up trash at a local park, playground, or beach.
  • Participating in food distribution for the needy or donating to a food bank in your community.
  • Running an errand or making a meal for someone who’s elderly or not in the best of health or at the hospital.

10/16-10/22: Jnana Yoga

The path of knowledge: In jnana yoga ‘knowledge’ isn’t intellectual knowledge or accumulation of facts, but rather knowing the Divine, distinguishing between what is transitory and what is permanent in existence, and ultimately seeing the sameness or shared essence between our individuals selves and the Divine. This week practice jnana yoga by:

  • Reading and discussing as a family the practical applications of teachings of Chapters 2 and 3 of the Gita.
  • Volunteering to teach about Diwali in your child’s school.
  • Visiting HAF’s Hinduism 101: Learning About Hinduism Inside and Out and reviewing 2 or 3 modules of your choice and discussing them with your school-aged children to better equip them to respond to errors in their school textbooks

10/23-10/31: Raja Yoga

The path of meditation: Here is where ‘yoga’ as the word is most commonly used resides. Remember that raja yoga uses the physical to transcend the physical. Asana, or poses, are an important part of the path, not the ultimate goal of yoga, which is samadhi, or union with the Divine. This week practice raja yoga by:

  • Commit to starting your day with five Surya namaskar and observe the effect on your breathing, posture, stamina, and ability to manage stress.
  • Practicing the yama of ahimsa by going vegetarian for the week. If you already follow a vegetarian diet, consider ahimsa of thought by becoming mindful of how you react and respond to daily stressors such as aggressive drivers, a pushy colleague, or the demands of family members.
  • Learning pranayama or committing to doing pranayama for at least 5 minutes every day this week and observing the effects on your stress level or stamina.

Please share this with you family and in your network, directing them to the HAF site: October is Hindu American Appreciation and Awareness Month. (HAF)

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Lost and Never Found : UN Experts Find Direct Link Between Enforced Disappearances and Migration, Claim Thousands of Migrants are at a High Risk

While enforced disappearances are widespread, it is not possible to document its scale and scope because the practice is hidden and takes place in secret.

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Enforced disappearances
Migrants line up as they wait to be evacuated from a makeshift street camp, in Paris, France Friday, July 7, 2017. Paris authorities are evacuating some 1,500 migrants from a makeshift street camp as Europe faces an upsurge in new arrivals. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) (VOA)

Geneva, September 14, 2017 : U.N. experts says thousands of migrants are at high risk of enforced disappearance. A special report by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances accuses states and the international community at large of turning a blind eye to the crime, which generally goes unreported and unpunished.

The report, presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, finds a direct link between enforced disappearances and migration. In some cases, it says, individuals may migrate because they may be at risk of enforced disappearance from their own governments or they could be abducted during their journey for political or other reasons.

It explains enforced disappearances can occur when a migrant is in detention or going through a deportation process. It can be a consequence of smuggling or trafficking.

ALSO READ Refugees and Migrant children more vulnerable to Deportation and Exploitation today: UNICEF

While the phenomenon is widespread, the vice chairman of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearance, Bernard Duhaime, told VOA it is not possible to document its scale and scope. That is because the practice is hidden and takes place in secret.

He adds it occurs in almost all parts of the world. For example, he notes cases of enforced disappearances in Libya and among refugees fleeing Syria.

“There are similar instances in South Asia, as well, in particular with the phenomenon of the migration of the Rohingyas. There are also examples documented … migrants crossing through Central America and through Mexico, as well who disappear.… The report refers to networks of traffickers and smugglers in Sudan, Eritrea – in that region, as well,” Duhaime said.

Experts warn the increasingly dangerous routes migrants follow expose them to greater risk of becoming victims of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.

The report calls on governments to gather all information about people who disappear in or while transiting their countries and to do what they can to locate missing migrants. (VOA)