Pakistani Christians hail the anti-forced conversions law as light at the end of the tunnel. The highly acclaimed law was passed by the lawmakers in the Sindh province which had become hub of the heinous activity. The law criminalized forced conversions of girls and women to other religions.
“Unequivocally, it is a great step taken by the Sindh government to protect the religious minorities.”
The hailed Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill of 2015 now inflicts punishments to the guilty person found responsible for forcibly converting another person belonging to a religious minority. The punishment includes a prison sentence of up to five years offender while the facilitator of the guilty one will face up to three years of imprisonment.
While remaking in this regard, Nasir Saeed, Director of a U.K.-based charity group, the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), law had become unavoidable while adding that the passage of the law, is a “great step” towards protecting the Christians in Pakistan.
CLAAS Director added that the law will prove to be instrumental in scaling down the devastating impact of forced conversions; preventing such incidents in future and also “build confidence and a sense of security among the religious minorities.” He went on to point out to the dismal fact that “The police do not normally take action in such cases, fearing the reaction and pressure from the Muslim community, but now they will have to take action.”
The charity group claims that local religious leaders are involved in incidents of forcing Christian women to convert to Islam by means of exerting pressure on them or at times intimidating them with physical, sexual, emotional or psychological trauma. CLASS also urged other provinces to follow the footsteps of the Sindh lawmakers.
CLAAS further called upon the remaining three provinces Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and specially Punjab to take the matter seriously and take efficacious steps in this regard and pass similar laws in order to thwart the forced conversions of Christian and Hindu girls. It was also asserted that Pakistan’s Senate had already termed forced conversions “un-Islamic” back in June.
The anti-forced conversions law states: “Forced conversion is an abhorrent and violent offence and an issue that has become prevalent across Sindh [that] must be eliminated by recognizing the importance of tolerance, peace and respect for all religions and persons, irrespective of their religion.”
In line with a research done by a local NGO Auraat Foundation every year about one thousand minorities’ girls are abducted and sexually assaulted , harassed and threatened to convert to Islam. The report further delineated that the unfortunate victims included seven hundred Christian women who are forced to embrace Islam every year, while three hundred Hindu girls face the brunt of the ferocity. In this regard Sindh province had become the hotbed of forced conversions of Hindu girls while Punjab had become the epicenter of forced conversions of Christian girls.
Christians are now calling for similar anti-forced religious conversions law other provinces at the same time as they appreciate the efforts of the Sindh lawmakers to curb the dilemma of the minorities’ girls in the province.