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12/01/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – A representative of the ruling government in Pakistan said that stern action will be taken against the issue of abductions, forced marriages, and forced conversions of religious minorities. This statement was made at a joint press conference yesterday, November 30, attended by Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony, and Bishop Azad Marshall, the President of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan.

Speaking about incidents of religious minority girls being forcefully married and converted, Minister Ashrafi said, “We have found out that a majority of such cases are an outcome of sexual exploitation and have not relation with Islam. Our religion forbids forced conversions and all people using religion to cover their crimes will be brought to justice.

I have also taken this issue up with Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, Law Minister Farogh Naseem, and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadir and we are committed to ensure implementation of relevant laws in letter and spirit,” Minister Ashrafi continued.

Leaders from religious minority communities, especially Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu communities, have reported increased incidents of young girls being abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted in recent years. These leaders have long called on the government of Pakistan to take action and establish legal protections.

According to a 2014 study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted 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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