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03/25/2022 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Voice for Justice (VFJ), an NGO operating in Pakistan, recently held a “Break the Bias” meeting in Karachi. During the event, they called on the government to provide legal and administrative guarantees to protect religious minorities, specifically minority women. VFJ drew attention to the injustices plaguing Pakistani women, such as forced conversions, child marriage, and general abuse. The government has outlawed marriage for those under the age of 18, and the Federal Court of Sharia accepts that setting a minimum age for marriage does not go against Islam.

While it is encouraging that the government and courts acknowledge the need for minimum age, there are still instances of early marriage brought on by poverty, social norms, traditions, customs, and religious misperceptions. These circumstances, as well as the general lack of enforcement, mean perpetrators of these heinous acts often walk away with impunity. A human rights activist in Pakistan suggests religious minorities are especially targeted, which may explain the lack of enforcement, “the inability of the State to implement and enforce existing laws on kidnappings, early marriages and forced marriages is evident, especially when the victims belong to religious minority communities.”

There’s no point in making forced conversions and marriages illegal if the state cannot or will not enforce this law. The president of VFJ explained the dilemma to Fides, “the absence of an adequate institutional response encourages the phenomenon of forced conversions, of forced marriages, especially to the detriment of women of religious minorities.” Assemblies like the one hosted by VFJ recently are steps in the right direction to make the government take accountability and protect the women belonging to religious minorities in Pakistan.