Pakistan: Treatment worsens for Christian and Hindu women

politics | Apr 09, 2014 | By Martin Barillas

A new report contends that more than 1,000 Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and married against their will. Prepared by the "Solidarity and Peace Movement" – which is a coalition of NGOs, associations and institutions including the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Catholic bishops of Pakistan – the report confirmed that approximately 700 cases per year involve Christian women and girls, while the remainder involve 300 Hindus. However, the report contends, "the true extent of the problem is probably much bigger, since many cases are not reported." The report is entitled, "Forced marriages and forced conversions in the Christian community of Pakistan."
 
The report gives examples of the phenomenon, which is especially marked among Christians living in the Punjab region and among Hindus of the Sindh. The victims’s ages range from approximately 12 years to 25. They come mostly from poor families. Complaints often go without being filed with the authorities out of fear of reprisals by Muslims. When cases do reach the courts, the victims have been intimidated and abused and thus claim to have converted sincerely to the Muslim faith. The cases are then closed. According to the report, "Under the custody of the kidnapper, she may suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and beatings, if not human trafficking." The report also describes the historical and social context of the problem. Pakistan’s Christian minority is concerned, said the report, about "the non-existent legal guarantees, policies and procedures for the protection of human rights of religious minorities."
 
Fr. James Channan, a Catholic priest of the Dominican order who leads the "Peace Center" in Lahore, told the Fides news service, "The phenomenon has been verified. It is really very alarming and disturbing for Christians and Hindus, who feel very insecure and vulnerable. We have dealt directly with several cases of forced marriages: the young people belonging to poor social class and often rich Muslim landowners take advantage of such abuse. In Pakistan, it seems to me that Christians and Hindus suffer social, religious and political discrimination, which is getting worse."

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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