Karachi (Agenzia Fides) – In Pakistan every year at least a thousand girls, from local Christian and Hindu communities are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. This was affirmed in a recent report produced by the NGO Aurat Foundation in Karachi. In a note sent to Fides, Mahnaz Rehman the directress of the Foundation, describes the difficult situation for women in Pakistan, specifically with regard to discrimination on a religious basis. The crime of forced conversion and marriage is common but receives little attention on the part of the local police or civil authorities, the note explains.
According to figures and documentation supplied by the report, every year in Pakistan an average number of 1000 girls are forced to become Muslim and marry Muslim men. The majority of the girls involved belong to Christian and Hindu communities.
The girls and the families receive threats and pressure. The practice is constant –Aurat Foundation affirms – the girls, often minors, are forced without their consent to marry their abductor or another man. If the family lodges a complaint, the abductor makes a counter complaint, accusing the family and stating that the girl converted of her own free will. When called to testify in court, the girl, under unspeakable threats and pressure, declares that her conversion and consent to marriage was voluntary. The case is then closed. “These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime”, says the Report. One factor would appear determinant: “From the time in which the complaint is filed and the controversy begins up to the time of the hearing in Court, the girls are held in custody by the abductors and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence”. One manner of pressure on these fragile and vulnerable adolescents, is to convince them that they have become “Muslims” to every effect and if they change their religion they would be apostates for which the punishment is death ”. The Report urges the police and civil authorities to unmask this practice and rescue the girls members of religious minority groups. The Aurat Foundation has also proposed a Bill to impede forced conversions. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/7/2015)