Lahore (Agenzia Fide) - "To curb the criminal acts which are often covered by questions of faith and to protect religious minorities from the recurrent violations of fundamental rights taking place in Pakistan": this is what social and religious leaders in Pakistan are demanding, in view of the International Day for Human Rights that is celebrated on December 10. Christian, Hindu and Muslim activists strongly urge the government of Pakistan to take effective measures to counteract these phenomena.
"Restoring respect for human rights is in our national interest. Religion has been used to cover up heinous crimes, including human trafficking or the practice of forced conversions and marriages regarding underage girls", said Anglican Bishop Emeritus of Lahore Alexander John Malik. "Today - he notes - respect for the rule of law, protection of citizens, legislative reforms are vital. I believe that specific bodies dedicated to the protection of human rights should be set up, in particular a Commission for the Rights of Minorities, with its own statute and autonomy".
Hina Jillani, a well-known Muslim human rights activist and former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights, notes to Fides: "The growing religious intolerance in Pakistan is reducing the space for various freedoms and is damaging the fabric of our society by undermining democracy and seriously endangering the lives of communities of already marginalized religious minorities". Jillani adds: "To curb displacement as a result of violence and repression, the Pakistani government will have to realize its responsibilities regarding the protection of the rights of minorities and of all the most vulnerable citizens".
Judge Retd Mehta Kailash Kohli also observes: "Forced religious conversions are serious violations of human rights: they violate religious freedom and freedom of conscience enshrined in the Pakistani constitution. Today, appropriate legal measures are urgently needed to stop these violations: in particular, the minimum age for marriage should be raised to 18, amending the current law on child marriage, in all the provinces of Pakistan".
Pushpa Kumari, a Hindu member of the Human Rights Commission established in Sindh Province, agrees, declaring: "Religious minorities are often marginalized and disadvantaged due to their low social and economic status and low literacy. In this context, the families of victims of forced conversions encounter further problems in obtaining justice in all cases of abuse and discrimination". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/12/2020)