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Implementation of child marriage laws would prevent cases of forced conversion

Implementation of child marriage laws would prevent cases of forced conversion

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a policy dailogue on forced conversion have demanded strict laws related to the subject so that state institutions may authenticate wilfull conversions instead of leaving the matter in the hands of organised mafias.

The dailogue, ‘Irreparable Damage through Planned Exodus’ was arranged on Thursday by the Catholic Commission for Justice & Peace (CCJP).

At the launch, Father Sarfraz Simon Diocese, director of CCJP Rawalpindi-Islamabad, said that the issue of forced conversion was like a blot on the face of society and the state of Pakistan must own the issue in order to eradicate this menace.

He also stressed on implementation of the laws against child marriage. “If child marriage laws are implemented, almost 50 percent of forced conversions could be prevented,” he said.

The speakers at the dailogue highlighted that reality was different from the state’s version of the matter. Repeated violations against women belonging to religious minorities have been proven several times and the prevalent issue relates to abduction, rape, sexual assault and eventually forced conversion through forced marriage, it stated.

There is a set pattern as per which women from minority communities are abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and then married off to their abductor, the report highlights.

Coordinator Tariq Ghori said CCJP works for safeguarding the rights of religious minorities.

“While the commission does not oppose wilful conversions and inter-faith marriages, it takes a firm stance against exploitation of minors particularly those who come from poor families,” he added.

It was stressed that all conversions should be validated in a court of law and no influential or religious figure had the right to certify that any person had converted to Islam. The speakers were referring to Pir Sarhandi and Mian Mithu of Sindh – the two main figures who spearhead the conversion campaigns of young girls mainly belonging to the Hindu community.

Senator Farhatullah Babar highlighted that a law against forced conversion was formulated by the Sindh government but it was turned down by the former governor of Sindh.

“The Sindh government will present bills against forced conversions in the provincial assembly soon,” he added.

Senator Babar suggested that members of religious minorities needed to approach all political parties and stressed on including the issue of forced conversion in their election manifestoes.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace is a rights’ organisation of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, that has been working since 1985 for the rights of marginalised communities and religious minorities living in Pakistan.

The commission’s main focus is towards freedom of religion or belief, ending formulation of discriminatory laws and policies.

Source  Dawn


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