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2,000 minorities’ girls converted to Islam forcibly

By: Aliya Mirza

LAHORE: As many as 2,000 women and girls from various minority sects were forcibly converted to Islam through rape, torture and kidnappings, while 161 people were charged with blasphemy in 2011, according to a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).

SPARC released the report on Tuesday at a press conference at a hotel.

The report read that minorities make up three to four percent of the country’s population but remain sidelined in state policies. In 2011, extremists killed governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, as both were advocating minority rights by calling for amendments in the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

After the 2011 floods, 130,000 Hindus were forced to leave their homes and 86,500 ended up on streets of various cities in Sindh. Whereas 27 Hindu children were kidnapped for ransom from different parts of northern Sindh. The primary school enrolment rate of scheduled caste Hindu girls is only 10.2 percent. Ahmadi students have been especially targeted by the hate campaigns. In Hafizabad, 10 Ahmadi students, including seven girls and a teacher, were expelled from school on account of their religious affiliation.

Violence against children: The report also read a total of 2,303 instances of sexual abuse were recorded from various parts of the country. The actual number is larger as many cases go unreported. In majority of the cases, people close to the child (parents or relatives) or officials who are supposed to give them protection are the abusers. For instance, policemen are involved in more than 60 percent of sexual abuse cases of street children. The number of acid attacks rose from 65 to 105 in 2011. A majority of the acid attacks involve women and girls between the ages of 15 and 25.

Child labour: According to a study by SPARC, most of the child domestic workers in Pakistan are aged between 10-15 years (sometimes five years old children are also employed). In the absence of official statistics, it is impossible to assess the magnitude of bonded labour, but it is estimated that 1.7 million people are engaged in bonded labour in Pakistan.

Juvenile justice: The number of juveniles detained in prisons increased from 1,225 in 2010 to 1,421 in 2011. Punjab has the highest number of juvenile offenders (833), Sindh 318, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 241 and Balochistan has 40 juvenile offenders.

Education: Pakistan ranks second in the global ranking of countries with the highest number of out-of-school children with the figure estimated to be about 25 million. Seven million have yet to receive some form of primary schooling. As many as 9,800 schools were reportedly affected in Sindh and Balochistan due to floods. Around 600,000 children of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are reported to have missed one or more years of education due to ongoing militancy.

Pakistan has the lowest youth literacy rate. Only 59 percent females are literate as compared to 79 percent of males in the age group of 15 to 24 years. There are around 51.2 million adult illiterates in Pakistan. Only 65 percent schools have drinking water facilities, 62 percent have toilet facilities, 61 percent have a boundary wall and only 39 percent have electricity.

Health: According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2011, 43 percent children born in Pakistan are afflicted by stunting (low height for age). The rate of child mortality in Pakistan is 87 deaths per 1000 births. Although full immunisation coverage of children between the ages of 12-23 months has increased from 78 per cent in 2008-09 to 81 per cent in 2010-11, it is still short of the MDG target for Pakistan (90 per cent for the years 2010-11). It is estimated that at the start of 2011 Pakistan was accounting for nearly 30 per cent of all polio cases recorded worldwide with 197 cases reported from different parts of the country.

Floods: The 2011 floods affected 4.8 million people, half of them children (an estimated 500,000 below the age of five). It is estimated that over 2.5 million men, women and children still lack essentials of life such as clean water, adequate food and durable shelter. The floods left over 2.4 million children and 1.2 million women vulnerable and exposed; lacking access to safe drinking water, sanitation and healthcare.

Daily Times