The UN tells Pakistan to stem forced marriages of Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs
Michiyo Tanabe and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The United Nations (UN) “expressed alarm” after a group of experts investigated the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan. This concerns the forced conversions and marriages of religious minorities (Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs) by Muslims.
Voice of America reports, “The group of around 12 independent U.N rights experts includes the special rapporteurs on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, on violence against women and on minority issues, and on contemporary forms of slavery.”
Minority Muslim sects, including the Ahmadiyya, suffer other forms of religious persecution. Also, historically, while Christian churches and other non-Muslim places of worship have been attacked and people killed: the Shia Muslim population are targeted the most by several Sunni Islamist militant groups concerning terrorist attacks.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement saying, “We are deeply troubled to hear that girls as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to locations far from their homes, made to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam, all in violation of international human rights law.”
The UN statement stresses that these acts against minority girls involve Muslim religious authorities, the justice system, and security forces. Hence, institutional religious discrimination at the state level is being manipulated by the dominant Muslim faith in Pakistan.
The BBC reports (last year), “Farah, a 12-year-old Christian girl, says she was taken from her home in Pakistan last summer, shackled, forced to convert to Islam and made to marry her kidnapper. It’s a fate estimated to befall hundreds of young Christian, Hindu and Sikh women and children in the country each year.”
Farah said, “They’d put chains on my ankles, and tied me with a rope. I tried to cut the rope and get the chains off, but I couldn’t manage it. I prayed every night, saying, ‘God, please help me.’”
In one brutal case – sadly one among many – Asma Yaqoob, a Christian female, died in horrendous agony after being set on fire. It took roughly two weeks for her to die from severe burns. Her only crime was to remain steadfast in her religious faith when a Muslim male wanted to marry her.
The statement said, “Pakistani authorities must adopt and enforce legislation prohibiting forced conversions, forced and child marriages, kidnapping, and trafficking … and uphold the rights of women and children.”
The statement continued, “Noting Pakistan’s previous attempts to pass legislation that will prohibit forced conversions and protect religious minorities, the experts deplored the ongoing lack of access to justice for victims and their families.”
Authorities in Pakistan need to protect all citizens. Also, international organizations – including the Commonwealth – need to take action and be more outspoken.
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