Each year, 1,000 Pakistani minority girls kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Dec 29, 2020, 02:21 PM(IST)

Forced conversions in Pakistan Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Human rights activists say the practice has accelerated during lockdowns against the coronavirus, when girls are out of school and more visible, bride traffickers are more active on the Internet and families are more in debt.

Abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages of girls and women from the minorities background has become a serious concern in Pakistan. 

It is estimated that approximately 1,000 — mostly Hindu and Christian — girls, are abducted, forcibly converted and forcibly married every year.

Human rights activists say the practice has accelerated during lockdowns against the coronavirus, when girls are out of school and more visible, bride traffickers are more active on the Internet and families are more in debt.

The US State Department this month declared Pakistan “a country of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms — a designation the Pakistani government rejects. The declaration was based in part on an appraisal by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that underage girls in the minority Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities were “kidnapped for forced conversion to Islam… forcibly married and subjected to rape.”

While most of the converted girls are impoverished Hindus from southern Sindh province, two new cases involving Christians, including Neha’s, have roiled the country in recent months.

The girls generally are kidnapped by complicit acquaintances and relatives or men looking for brides. Sometimes they are taken by powerful landlords as payment for outstanding debts by their farmhand parents, and police often look the other way. Once converted, the girls are quickly married off, often to older men or to their abductors, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Forced conversions thrive unchecked on a money-making web that involves Islamic clerics who solemnize the marriages, magistrates who legalize the unions and corrupt local police who aid the culprits by refusing to investigate or sabotaging investigations, say child protection activists.

One activist, Jibran Nasir, called the network a “mafia” that preys on non-Muslim girls because they are the most vulnerable and the easiest targets “for older men with pedophilia urges.”

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in App