11/30/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a dormant law on forced marriages should be used by Pakistani authorities to combat increasing cases of abductions, forced marriages, and forced conversions of religious minorities.
Section 498 B of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act imposes a punishment of 3 to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 rupees ($3,140.00) for the crime of forced marriage. According to Peter Jacob, Director of CSJ, the law has not been put into practice since it was enacted in 2017.
“There was no discourse in assembly or senate,” Jacob told the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). “Therefore it doesn’t benefit the victims. Neither law enforcement agencies nor families of victims know about this law. All cases of forced conversion are either registered as rape or kidnapping.”
“Police all over the country must investigate all pending case and future cases under Section 498 B as this enactment is particularly relevant to forced conversions and marriages involving minority women,” Jacob continued.
According to a study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted to Islam every year. Many of the victims are minors. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
The issue of religion is injected into cases of sexual assault to place victims from religious minority communities at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
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