Civil Society: ‘Encouraging’ the Commission against forced conversions

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Lahore: Pakistani civil society organizations welcome the creation of the parliamentary commission for protection from forced conversions. 

The committee was born from the initiative of the presidents of the Senate and National Assembly and was approved on 21 November. 

According to executive director of the Center for Social Justice (Csj) Peter Jacob, “the initiative is an encouraging development. We are ready to assist the new commission.

For years the associations that defend human rights in Pakistan have been demanding a law that punishes kidnapping of girls, especially Christian and Hindu religious minorities

 We want to support freedom of religion and faith in every possible way.”

In fact, young women belonging to minority groups suffer frequent harassment and abuse

In numerous cases the persecution ends in the actual kidnapping to satisfy the wishes of Muslim men much older than the girls. 

The latter are humiliated, frequently raped, and finally forced to convert to Islam and marry the kidnappers or those who commissioned the kidnapping.

The executive director of the CSJ hopes that — the committee will bring forth significant and precise recommendations, including progress to pending legislation to curb imposed, forced and unethical religious conversions, which likewise accord with hateful forced marriages against the will of women of minorities. 

During adolescence, underage girls face threats and violence — kidnapping and rape — under the pretext of conversion to Islam “.

According to Jacob, the names of those who carry out the trade in women are known to the authorities. 

These so-called religious personalities — he continues — compile conversion certificates without legal bases. 

This is why the law must take its course. The Center for Social Justice, in collaboration with the Popular Commission for minority rights, has drawn up 159 cases that took place between 2013 and 2019 – another 16 girls turned to the Sindh High Court — for support against forced marriages. 

In 2017, the National Assembly approved the Criminal Law (amendment) Act IV that made forced marriage with a non-Muslim woman a crime punishable from 5 to 7 years in prison, in addition to paying a fine.

The Lahore High Court ordered the transfer of custody of a Christian girl named Charlotte, forced to marry and converted against her will in April — 2019.

 Though, the law lapsed without the approval of the Senate. 

The new parliamentary commission will have at its disposal the results of the inquiry launched — after the revelation of brides traffic from Pakistan to China

Peter Jacob points out: “Forced conversions remain an abuse of religion and the law, and need to be thwarted.”