ABDUCTION AND FORCED CONVERSION OF YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS – A NATIONAL SCANDAL
The promise of religious liberty and equal rights for Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities is rapidly eroding in Pakistan. Growing Islamic radicalization in the country is making life increasingly hard for non-Muslim Pakistanis. Forced conversions and marriages have become commonplace.
FORCED CONVERSION: WHAT’S HAPPENING
Reports suggest as many as 1.000 girls and young women, primarily from Hindu and Christian communities have been subjected to harrowing forced conversions. They are being abducted, raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and then married to their abductors, often under coercion.
The abduction is set in motion by Muslim men looking for brides. They work a group of complicit friends and relatives who facilitate the abduction.
2. FORCED CONVERSION TO ISLAM
After the girls or young women have been kidnapped, they are taken to religious institutions where they are converted to Islam against their will. Most of the times the conversion is already prepared and the age of the victim – many are too young to give their consent – or the fact that she has been abducted is not considered.
3. FORCED MARRIAGES
After being forcibly converted, girls and women are married to strangers against their will and under duress. Pakistan’s laws prohibit the marriage of girls under the age of 16 (or 18 in Sindh province). Furthermore, in 2017 forced marriages were specifically made illegal. However,, they continue under Islamic ‘Sharia’ law, which states that girls reach puberty, they are adults capable of making decisions.
4. SEPARATION FROM THEIR FAMILIES
Despite allegations of kidnapping by families, police authorities frequently help the suspects and refuse to investigate further. Families cannot see their daughters during legal process – sometimes they never see them again.
5. RAPE, SEXUAL ABUSE AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The ‘marriages’ can often be a living hell for the women and girls subjected to them. Many are condemned to a life of sexual abuse and rape by their husbands, or they are sold and trafficked into prostitution.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT PAKISTAN’S CHRISTIANS?
This is a serious epidemic, leaving many of Pakistan’s Christian minority living in fear for their families.
Forced conversions have thrived unchecked in a sinister money-making web. That web involves Islamic clerics who solemnize the marriages, magistrates who legalize the unions and corrupt local police who refuse to investigate, or even sabotage any investigations.
The police and judicial system is weak and corrupt in much of Pakistan, with little interest in the concerns of Christians. Victims’ families who decide to report these abductions, themselves become the targets of revenge, such as the false accusation of committing blasphemy, punishable by death. The odds are stacked against Pakistan’s believers.