Qamar Rafiq, writing in Daily Times said that a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities found that around 1,000 girls between the ages of 12-25 from minorities are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year and married to their abductors, which described the situation as a “humanrights catastrophe”.
The report also highlighted the practice of forced conversions and marriages that have amplified steadily in recent years that hint at the calamitous handling of the government to reinforce much-needed legislation to curb this inhuman crime.
Similarly, the government has been unsuccessful to implement the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 and the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which raised the legal minimum age of marriage to 18 in Sindh province.
Regrettably, these laws have not been implemented properly in Sindh and other provinces of Pakistan, wrote Rafiq.
The victim girls are largely left in the custody of their kidnapper throughout the trial process, where they are forced to claim that the conversion or marriage was consensual.
We are all familiar with the fact that this crisis is a product of the government’s failure over decades to protect the religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors and religiously inspired extremists. On the other hand, the incidents of hate preaching, and religious extremism remains an imminent threat for minority communities particularly girls from the Hindu and Christian faiths, wrote Rafiq.
The Parliamentary report also casts light on how Pakistan has failed to ensure the security and respect of women belonging to religious minorities, with experts calling the situation a national and international tragedy, reported Daily Times.
As per Rafiq, there are many reasons that cast light on how Pakistan has failed to ensure the security and respect of women belonging to religious minorities.
Firstly, it is evident that Pakistan’s ineffective policy reforms to address forced conversions and marriages have exacerbated the situation.
Secondly, the police often turn a blind eye to reports of abduction, forced conversion or marriage, and set up impunity for perpetrators by refusing to record a First Information Report (FIR) or falsifying the information.
Thirdly, the Islamic clerics who perform the marriage do not intend to investigate the nature of conversion and age of the girl.
Moreover, the part of the problem is also an ineffective justice system that is discriminatory, particularly towards women from religious minorities which means victims and their families are scared of pleading the case with the challenges to afford a lawyer, in many cases. However, in most cases, the production of conversion and marriage certificates is enough evidence to pardon the abductors. It is apparent that the system has loopholes and reform is necessary to protect both the human and legal rights of the victims, said Rafiq.
Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “the right to freedom of religion includes the right to change one’s religion and that no one shall be subject to coercion to change their religion” but there is enough evidence to justify, Pakistan has failed to comply with the international obligation.
Perhaps, just like previous governments, the current Pakistani administration believes they are doing enough but the truth is the opposite. Today, the abduction, forced conversions and marriages of non-Muslim girls have become one of the biggest human rights crises of the era.