UN experts condemn forced marriages, religious conversions of minorities in Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Women and children in Pakistan belonging to religious minority communities are vulnerable to forced religious conversion and marriage, sexual violence and trafficking, the UN experts said on Thursday.
The statement further called upon the Pakistani authorities to treat women including those belonging to “Hindu and Christian” communities without discrimination.
“All women and girls must be treated without discrimination, including those belonging to the Christian and Hindu communities, or indeed other religions and beliefs,” they added.
“Christian and Hindu girls remain particularly vulnerable to forced religious conversion, abduction, trafficking, child, early and forced marriage, domestic servitude and sexual violence”, the experts said in a statement.
“The exposure of young women and girls belonging to religious minority communities to such heinous human rights violations and the impunity of such crimes can no longer be tolerated or justified,” the statement read.

Forced marriages, religious conversions, validated by courts

Taking on the religious laws that justify some of these crimes, the statement said, “Perpetrators often escape accountability, with police dismissing crimes under the guise of ‘love marriages’.”
Stressing on the importance of a woman’s right to choose, the UN experts said that child, early, and forced marriages cannot be justified on religious or cultural basis.
“A woman’s right to choose a spouse and freely enter into marriage is central to her life, dignity and equality as a human being and must be protected and upheld by law,” the experts said.
Highlighting that, under international law, consent is immaterial when the victim is a child under the age of 18, the experts stressed upon dissolving marriages contracted under coercion.

‘All women be treated without discrimination’: UN urges Pakistan

Highlighting the case of Mishal Rasheed, a girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted and forced to marry her abductor, the UN experts called upon the Pakistani authorities to treat all women and girls without discrimination.
The experts further urged the authorities to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18.
“The Pakistani authorities must enact and rigorously enforce laws to ensure that marriages are contracted only with the free and full consent of the intended spouses, and that the minimum age for marriage is raised to 18, including for girls,” they said.


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