Tue, 03 Aug 2021

Islamabad [Pakistan], July 14 (ANI): Pakistan has come under adverse international scrutiny for yet another case of forced conversion and marriage of a minor girl from Gujranwala city of Punjab province.

Flagging the case of 13-year-old Christian girl Nayab Gill, who after she was abducted on May 20 was converted and married off to a 30-year old Muslim man, the Overseas Pakistani Christian Alliance (OPCA), a Europe-based advocacy group had on July 3 submitted a petition to Pakistan Missions in Western Capitals urging action to prevent such cases.

Earlier, on July 11 and 12, the Sindh Express reported that two Hindu businessmen were kidnapped at Bhatshah in Sindh. According to another Pakistan daily, Intekhab, the Hindu community also protested against the murder of a Hindu labourer by security personnel in Islamkot, Maleer in Sindh.

According to an official release, it is estimated that over 1000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted and forcibly converted in Pakistan every year. Even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan mentions that every month 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted and forcibly converted in the country.

Among the four provinces, Sindh and Punjab have the highest cases of forced conversion due to socio-economic conditions of minorities, religious fundamentalism, the State's apathy towards the crime and tacit support from powerful pressure groups. The existing laws for protection against such offences are considered insufficient by human rights groups. Moreover, these are not strictly implemented by the police and judiciary.

Despite the growing number of cases, the Federal government quashed the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) which was passed by the Sindh Provincial Assembly in 2016. A more recent attempt in October, 2019 to enact a law criminalising forced religious conversions was also rejected, this time by the Sindh Assembly, according to a release.

The patriarchal feudal culture alongside religious bigotry has also made non-Muslim women extremely vulnerable to frequent abuses including forced conversion and marriages.

"Abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages have long-lasting and profound effects not only on the lives of affected girls, but also the whole community. The parents, fearing abductions, restrict their daughters' freedom to attend schools and live a normal life. Girls are also forced into early marriages which deprive them of formal education, economic opportunities, social advancement, and good health. Such instances reflect both the inability and apathy of the Pak government to tackle such cases effectively," the release added. (ANI)

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