Rat-Children of Shah Daula

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According to a centuries-old tradition, barren women who worship at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Daula, in Gujrat, Pakistan, will become fertile. But unless they donate their first-born child to the shrine as an oblate, all their subsequent children will be born disabled.

Claims are made that the tradition has been used as the foundation for a trade in the donated children, who are deliberately disfigured and sold to professional beggars by the shrine's guardians, although the shrine is now controlled by the government of Pakistan. It has been claimed that the disfigurements are caused by a genetic abnormality, but studies show that the children are unrelated to each other.

There may be as many as 10,000 of these people, most in the province of Punjab and the city of Gujrat.


Galpin, Richard. "The Rat-Children of Pakistan: Blessed by a Sufi Saint but Disfigured for Profit," The Guardian [London], 20 June 1998


19th Century
20th Century
21st Century
Mental Handicaps, Learning Difficulties
Physical Handicaps
Financial Problems, Poverty, Bankruptcy
Birth or Infancy
To Avoid Prophecy Fulfillment
Oblates, Dedicated to God
Priest, Religious, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Patron, Apprentice Master or Owner
Others ("Strangers")
Very Poor (Financially) Adoptive or Foster Families
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
Street Children, Children Who Grew up Without Adult Supervision (at Least Temporarily), or Ran Away
Tracing Impossible or Birth Family Extinct
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