According to Charisma News report, 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,” a Pakistani Muslim nongovernmental organization says.
In its investigative report “Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan” the Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP) classifies a pattern. It states that in maximum of these kidnapping cases the parents of Christian women file a police report, but in response the kidnapper’s relatives or friends file another police complaint on behalf of the kidnapped Christian woman, accepting that she deliberately married and converted to Islam, and that her parents are now “harassing” her unlawfully.
Out of Pakistan’s approximate 185 million population, around 95 percent are Muslims—20-30 percent Shia, the majority Sunni. Christians make up about 2 percent of the total population and about the same number are Hindus. And the last 1 percent are of other religious minorities.
The report signifies that after kidnapping, these Christian women are exposed to “sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse”. When they are produced before the court and asked to testify if they were captured, these women (and sometimes children) give statements in favor of their abductors fearing of threats to their life and family.
MSP states the report is based on field research assembled by legal expert, Emad Ansari, during the summer of 2012. It is based upon numerous interviews with local CSOs, national policymakers and diverse stakeholders from amongst the Pakistani judiciary.
The esteemed national Pakistani daily paper ‘Dawn’ has also showed a study of such an incident backing up MSP’s research; parents of a poor Hindu girl registered a police complaint about her forced conversion. It shows that similarly Hindus also suffer kidnapping of their women and forcible conversion to Islam. The analysis shows that it is to a certain extent difficult to truly say whether the marriage was contracted with complete deliberate agreement.
A Catholic organization working in Pakistan, The National Commission for Justice and Peace, noted 624 media reports of Christians’ conversion to Islam between the years 2000 and 2012. The MSP remarks that, it is hard to estimate from these media reports how many conversions were of a forced nature.
Nevertheless, it records that “The line between willful and coerced conversions becomes further blurred when the reasons for conversion include a need for security, escape from discrimination, or fear of future violence”. (Life can clearly appear to be easier for women who marry ‘above their station’ through conversion). However, the MSP report signifies with stress that “coercive evangelization and targeted conversions are taking place”.
Albert David, the chairman of the Pakistan United Christian Movement, stressed that the government must take actions to stop forceful conversion. He also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to take stern action if the government remains unsuccessful to introduce special measures.