Frustration among Christians grows over cases of abductions, forced religious marriages and conversions, while complaints about institutional interference fall on deaf ears, according to reports Fidesz Agency.
Civil Society Associations and Movements in Pakistan, they condemn another case of the 13-year-old Christian girl Zarvia Pervaiza victim of kidnapping, forced conversion and early marriage.
The phenomenon that seems to be well present in Pakistani society, alarm the associations that protect people’s rightshas been condemned by representatives of various religions and is also present in political institutions.
Injustice and violation of the rule of law are becoming a dangerous trend in the country
Tariq Gill, a Christian and member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, after visiting Zarwiya’s family, has expressed serious concern for the fact that the girl has not yet been returned to her family, despite the complaint filed with the police back in May 2022 under Art. 365, b.”b” of the Criminal Code, which punishes the crime of kidnapping, persuading a woman to marry.
Tariq Gill notes: “We demand that the Christian girl be returned to the custody of her parents, and that legal action be taken against the kidnappers and those who facilitated this process of kidnapping, forced conversion and forced marriage.” According to the Christian parliamentarian, “a law is needed to prohibit the forced conversion and forced marriage of women belonging to religious minorities . We will demand it in the Legislative Assembly as it is urgent to protect the lives of women in Pakistan. We condemn the inaction and inability of the defenders of law and justice to restore Zarvia. Tariq Gill points out that “despite the injustices suffered, our Christian people stand strong in their faith and move forward with hope».
As long as the perpetrators go unpunished, crime will not stop
Nadia Stephen, a journalist and writer dedicated to defending the rights of Pakistani women, agrees, telling Agenzia Fides: «Injustice and violation of the rule of law are becoming a dangerous trend in the country. We call on the state authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice, as equal rights must be guaranteed to all citizens.” “Minors, victims of kidnapping, forced conversion and forced marriage,” he points out, “will be traumatized for life. Due to the phenomenon of violence and abuse with impunity by the powerful against the vulnerable, Pakistan’s religious minorities are losing confidence in the law and the judicial system.
The organization A voice for justice adds to the stigmatization of the phenomenon and through its president, Joseph Jansen, states: “It is up to the government to introduce legal and administrative guarantees to protect minorities from human rights violations and to take serious measures to put an end to kidnappings. , Forced Conversion and Forced Marriage of Christian and Hindu Women in Pakistan”. Jansen points out that “as long as perpetrators enjoy impunity, crime will not stop” and urges the government to “introduce comprehensive legislation to protect women victims of this physical, psychological and conscientious abuse”.
Calling for justice for Zarvia Pervaiz and all victims of forced conversion, Joseph Jansen recalls the case of a 12-year-old girl, Maha Asif who was kidnapped in Lahore and taken to Hasilpur where she was baptized and forcibly married. The girl, in a state of physical and mental prostration, was forced to sign documents declaring her approval, under threat of death to her family members.
Other recent cases refer to the city of Faisalabad (Punjab): Saba Nadeem, 15, and Chashman Kanwal, 14. kidnapped, forcibly converted and married by Muslim men in recent months.
It is true, says Joseph Jansen, that in some cases it has been possible to reunite the girls with their birth families, but justice is still expected to punish the perpetrators. “Courts must deliver justice to the victims and punish the perpetrators and accomplices involved in accordance with international human rights standards and according to the laws of Pakistan,” he insisted.
78 cases in 2021
On August 11, on the occasion of National Minorities Day, Bilawal Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister and chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, the ruling party in Sindh province, publicly called for women from religious minorities to be protected. The forced conversion of women from religious minorities – he pointed out – is one of the biggest challenges: Neither Islam nor the constitution of Pakistan allows or legitimizes forced conversion. We need to work at the legislative level to stop this phenomenon.” In this way, the minister said, “we will show that we believe in the policy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the country, when he assured that all citizens of Pakistan would be equal and enjoy equal rights.”
According to a report prepared by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), NGO led by Pakistani Catholic Peter Jacob, in 2021 there were 78 cases of women and girls (39 Hindu and 38 Christian) abducted, forcibly converted and married by Muslim men. 76% of them are minors. The number of cases registered in 2021, CSJ says, has increased by 80% compared to 2020. The phenomenon is only the tip of the iceberg, as many cases are not reported by families for fear of reprisals.