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United Nations expresses concern over forced marriages and religious conversions in Pakistan

Girls belonging to Hindu and Christian communities are victims of forced conversion, kidnapping, trafficking, early and forced marriage, and sexual violence.
Dawn Staff Reporter
London: United Nations human rights experts have expressed disappointment over the lack of protection for women belonging to minority communities in Pakistan, saying that minority communities in the country are victims of forced marriages and religious conversions.
“Girls belonging to the Hindu and Christian communities are particularly vulnerable to forced conversion, kidnapping, trafficking, early and forced marriage and sexual violence,” a statement issued by experts at the Human Rights Council in Geneva said. .
The experts who issued the statement included Siobhan Mullally, Special Representative on Trafficking in Women and Children, Nicholas Levert, Special Representative on Minority Affairs, Dorothy Estrada Tank, Head of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, and others.
In the statement, UN experts said that “crimes and human rights violations against young women and girls belonging to religious minority communities can no longer be tolerated”.
Experts expressed concern that girls belonging to religious minorities are forced into forced marriages and conversions, sometimes even courts allow such crimes and cite religious laws to punish such girls. Instead of handing them over to the parents, it is justified to keep them with the kidnappers.

He said criminals often escape accountability and the police sometimes ignore the crimes by labeling them as ‘love marriages’.
The experts emphasized that child and forced marriages cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds, stressing that under international law, the consent of a girl child under the age of 18 is required. Consent doesn’t matter.

Remember that the legal age of marriage in Pakistan is 16 for girls and 18 for boys.

Experts said that a woman has the right to choose her spouse and freely enter into marriage, and the law should protect and support this right.

He emphasized the importance of laws to end forced marriages and the need to provide justice, support, protection, and assistance to the victims.
He further said that women and girls belonging to all religions, including Hindus, should be treated fairly without any discrimination.
He urged that the perpetrators be brought to justice in Pakistan, enforcement of existing legal safeguards against child, early and forced marriages as well as abduction and trafficking of girls from minority communities. Also demanded to fulfill human rights obligations.

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