ISLAMABAD: Abduction and forced conversion of Christian women on rise in the country according to a local organisation.
According to a Pakistani non-governmental organization Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP), there has been a sharp rise in the incidents of abduction and later forced conversion of Christian women oftentimes by giving them in marriage to Muslims. There has been a caustic increase in gender based violence against the religious minorities. Women from religious minorities specifically Christians and Hindus are being targeted. The organization states: every year between 100 to 700 Christian women, usually between the ages of 12 and 25 are abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party.
The organization has prepared a report titled, “Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan.” The Movement for Solidarity and Peace has diagnosed a particular tendency. It says: in most of these abduction cases the parents of Christian victims file a police report, but in response the abductor’s relatives or friends file another police complaint on behalf of the abducted Christian woman, claiming that she wilfully married and converted to Islam, and that her parents are now “harassing” her unlawfully.
The report further points out: after kidnapping, these Christian women experience tormenting such as, “sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse.” Subsequently, when these victimized women are produced before the court and asked to testify if they were abducted, these women (and sometimes children) give a statement in favour of their captors for fear of threats to their life, and those of their family.
On the other hand, Movement for Solidarity and Peace says: the report is based on field research compiled by a local legal expert during the summer of 2012; it includes numerous interviews with local CSOs, national policymakers and diverse stakeholders from amongst the Pakistani judiciary. The organization’s research has been markedly supported by nationally acknowledged daily newspaper “Dawn.” The news paper exposed an investigative account of one such incident: a Hindu girl whose parents filed a police complaint about her forced conversion. Hindus also suffer abduction of their women and forcible conversion to Islam. The investigation shows that it is quite difficult to actually say whether the marriage was contracted with complete wilful consent.
However, this issue was also highlighted in a USCIRF report. The report underlined that Pakistani Christians are an afflicted and socio-economically deprived community, about 80 per cent of which leads life in miserable poverty. The report states that as a consequence of their lesser number and poor financial status they are subjected to human trafficking and sale through debt transfers, physical abuse, and economic exploitation. Under these circumstances, the abuse of Christian women is much easier and the crimes go unpunished with impunity. The report however, does not rule out wilful conversions due to socio-economic reasons.