Pakistani Groups Concerned Over Blocking of Anti-Forced Conversion Bill
10/13/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Several watchdog groups have expressed concern as a bill aimed at curbing forced conversions in Pakistan was blocked by hardliners in the Pakistani parliament who argued that the bill went against Islam. Pakistan is facing a growing problem of kidnappers abducting underage, religious minority girls and forcefully converting them to Islam. These girls are then often forced to marry their kidnappers. Kidnappers have become increasingly emboldened over the years as the local religious majority community, law enforcement, and much of the judiciary protect them from consequences for their crimes.
The problem has grown so severe that, in 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan called a special parliamentary committee to examine the issue and propose a solution for the growing problems faced by Pakistan’s religious minority communities. The committee held hearings, investigated the issues, and recently proposed the now-blocked bill.
Pakistan has laws that, in theory, protect religious minority girls and criminalize underage marriages. However, these laws are often sidestepped kidnappers who forge paperwork in an attempt to prove that their victims converted willingly or are not underage. Christians and religious minorities have little hope in the aftermath of kidnappings of achieving any form of justice for their loved ones as the system heavily favors members of the majority Muslim community.
The mainstream media rarely covers these atrocities, and most cases go unnoticed within Pakistani community and by the international community.
Matias Perttula, Director of Advocacy for International Christian Concern, said, “Forced conversions and forced marriages are an ongoing, growing problem for Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s failure to deal with this problem is shameful. If the government truly cared, they would pass legislation increasing protections for these girls and prosecute the perpetrators of these atrocious crimes.”
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