Pakistan faces heavy UN criticism over forced marriage conversion of minor girls

UN Experts Denounce Pakistan's Failure to Protect Minority Girls from Forced Conversions and Marriages
Pakistan's Minority Girls (Photo - X)

UN human rights experts have strongly criticized Pakistan for failing to protect young women and girls belonging to religious minority communities, particularly Christians and Hindus from horrific abuses.

The experts stated that these girls remain highly vulnerable to a range of human rights violations, including forced religious conversion, abduction, trafficking, child and forced marriage, domestic servitude, and sexual violence. They emphasized that the exposure of these young women and girls to such “heinous human rights violations”. Shockingly, the perpetrators of these crimes often go unpunished, with puppet authorities dismissing the cases as “love marriages.”

The experts noted with alarm that forced marriages and religious conversions of girls from religious minorities are often validated by the courts, with perpetrators escaping accountability as the crimes are dismissed as “love marriages.” They stressed that child, early, and forced marriage cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds, and that under international law, consent is irrelevant when the victim is a child under 18.

Forced Conversions and Marriages

Highlighting specific cases, the experts mentioned the abduction and forced conversion of a young girl named Mishal Rasheed in 2022, as well as the alleged abduction, forced conversion, and marriage of a 13-year-old Christian girl last month. They made it clear that any change of religion must be completely voluntary, without coercion.

The UN experts called on the Pak authorities to take immediate action. This includes enacting and strictly enforcing laws to ensure that marriages are entered into only with the full consent of both parties, and raising the minimum age for marriage to 18 for girls.

“A woman’s right to choose a spouse and freely enter into marriage is central to her life, dignity, and equality as a human being,” the experts stated, urging the authorities to end the impunity for these horrific crimes and uphold Pakistan’s international human rights obligations.

However, despite recurring incidents of targeted abductions and conversions, the law enforcement has mostly remained numb while taking the action. The gruesome condition of minorities in Pakistan mostly goes unnoticed adding further distress and agony for the victim, their family and community.

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