Pakistan is a living hell for religious minorities and more so for the women of the minority community. Every year in Pakistan, hundreds of young Christian and Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, but the establishment as well as the media prefers to remain blind to this inhumane treatment. There is no hope for justice either as the police and courts whose job is to dig into the matter to bring the truth out and dispense justice disregard the victim’s circumstances, and choose to believe documents and statements of the abductors. And instead of giving kidnapped girls’ custody to their parents/families, in a warped dispensation of “justice,” at times, the custody is given to their captors, their kidnappers.
Although there are no confirmed statistics on forced conversions in the country, according to a report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan published by Asian Human Rights Commission, at least 1,000 Pakistani girls are forced into Muslim marriages and made to convert to Islam annually. The report found that forced marriages usually follow a similar pattern: girls between the ages of 12 and 25 are abducted, made to convert to Islam, and then married to the abductor or an associate. If a complaint is filed, then “girls are held in custody by the abductors and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence”. Even if the case is taken to court, the girls are threatened and pressurized by their husband and his family to declare that their conversion was voluntary. And so the case is closed. Victims are sexually abused, forced into prostitution, and suffer domestic abuse or even wind up in the human trafficking cycle. Such cases rarely end in the girls going back to their real families. From the moment the controversy begins, right up until the court hearing, the girls live with their kidnappers and suffer trauma and violence. These fragile girls are told that they “are now Muslims and that the punishment for apostasy is death”.
Even if somebody is able to take such a case to court, there is still no hope for justice. Last year, Boota Masih, father of 24-year-old Sobia from Lahore, took her case to court with the support of an NGO, but it was all in vain. He filed a petition of habeas corpus through his lawyer in the Lahore High Court. The honourable judge ordered the concerned police officer to recover and produce Sobia before the court. Instead, the officer in charge of investigation appeared before the court, and submitted Sobia’s marriage and conversion certificates. The concerned judge asked the parents to withdraw their petition, and despite the lawyer arguing for permission for Sobia and her father to meet, unfortunately, the court had to dismiss the request, and the case was withdrawn.
There are no indicators to prove the success of Pakistan’s endeavours to promote human rights, and prevent the ongoing persecution against minority women; rather, it is on the increase. Such atrocities against minorities’ women are not hidden from anyone as several reports have been published about this abominable issue.