Non-Muslim women vulnerable to forced conversion

2 mins read

ISLAMABAD: United Nations (UN) human rights experts have expressed dismay at the lack of protection for women and girls belonging to non-Muslim communities in Pakistan, saying that they remained vulnerable to forced marriages and conversions, Dawn.com reported.

“Christian and Hindu girls remain particularly vulnerable to forced religious conversion, abduction, trafficking, child, early and forced marriage, domestic servitude and sexual violence,” the rights experts said in a statement issued on 11 April 2024 in Geneva.

The experts included special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata; special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Siobhan Mullally; special rapporteur on minority issues, Nicolas Levrat; special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Nazila Ghanea.

The chair of the working group on discrimination against women and girls, Dorothy Estrada Tanck, and members of the working group — Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstic, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi — also joined the experts in voicing concern on the situation.

The special rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Special procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

According to a Dawn.com report, the UN experts said: “The exposure of young women and girls belonging to religious minority communities to such heinous human rights violations and the impunity of such crimes can no longer be tolerated or justified.”

They also expressed concern that forced marriages and religious conversions of girls from religious minorities were “validated by the courts, often invoking religious law to justify keeping victims with their abductors rather than allowing them to return them to their parents”.

“Perpetrators often escape accountability, with police dismissing crimes under the guise of ‘love marriages’,” they said.

The experts stressed that child, early and forced marriages could not be justified on religious or cultural grounds. They underscored that, under international law, consent was irrelevant when the victim was a child under the age of 18.

“A woman’s right to choose a spouse and freely enter into marriage is central to her life, dignity and equality as a human being and must be protected and upheld by law,” the experts said.

They stressed the need for provisions to invalidate, annul or dissolve marriages contracted under duress, with due consideration for the women and girls concerned, and to ensure access to justice, remedy, protection and adequate assistance for victims.

“Notwithstanding the right of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in accordance with Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, change of religion or belief in all circumstances must be free, without coercion and undue inducements,” the UN experts said.

“The Pakistani authorities must enact and rigorously enforce laws to ensure that marriages are contracted only with the free and full consent of the intended spouses, and that the minimum age for marriage is raised to 18, including for girls,” the experts said, adding that all women and girls, including those belonging to the Christian and Hindu communities, must be “treated without discrimination”.

They urged Pakistan to bring perpetrators to justice, enforce existing legal protections aga­inst child, early and forced marriage, abduction and trafficking of minority girls, and uphold the country’s international human rights obligations.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

Previous Story

Malala looks forward to working with govt to uplift education sector

Next Story

Man slays wife, 7 children

Latest from Blog

Addressing the digital gender gap

GENDER equality is not just a basic human right. It is also a cornerstone of a thriving, contemporary economy that fosters sustainable, inclusive growth. Acknowledging that gender equality is crucial ensures that both men and women can contribute fully to advancing societies and economies. The path forward is challenging. According…

Another education emergency

An education emergency has been imposed by the federal government to stem and cure the rot of 26.2 million out-of-school children (OOSC), the second highest in the world according to Unicef. The farce of education emergency has been enacted many a time with no discernible remedial impact. Einstein said: “We…

Three remanded in teenage girl’s gang rape case

KARACHl: A judicial magistrate has remanded three suspects in police custody for their alleged involvement in subjecting a teenage schoolgirl to gang rape and filming the heinous offence. The investigating officer (IO) of the case brought the three suspects before the judicial magistrate (Malir) and sought their 14-day physical remand.…

Gang involved in filming and blackmailing girls smashed

LAHORE: Narowal police have unearthed a gang involved in filming women picnicking along with their families at the BambanwalaRavi-Bedian (BRB) Canal and blackmailing them later with threats to upload `objectionable` material on social media to mint money or to exploit them sexually. With `several suspects and nominated accused` in custody,…

Unicef to launch child rights protection programme

KARACHI: The Sindh government and Unicef on 16 May 2024 agreed to launch a child protection programme to reduce child rights violations and harmful traditional practices. A statement issued from CM House said that Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Unicef Country Representative Abdullah A. Fadil in their meeting…
Go toTop