The evil practices of forced conversion of underage girls from religious minorities continue unabated in Pakistan. The Associated Press quoted Human right activists as saying that the religious persecution of these impoverished non-Muslim girls accelerated during lockdowns against the coronavirus, as they spend more time on social media and fall prey to the traffickers who remain active on the internet.
1000 girls of religious minorities in Pakistan converted to Islam every year
The report suggests that as many as 1000 Christian, Sikh and Hindu women between 12 and 25 years are abducted, raped, married, and forced to convert to Islam. Due to limited financial means of the families of such victims, many cases go unreported.
While most of the converted girls are impoverished Hindus from southern Sindh province, two new cases involving Christians, including that of the 13-year-old Christian girl named Arzoo, who was kidnapped, raped and converted to Islam, to her 44-year-old abductor Ali Azhar and 14-year-old Neha who was forcibly converted from Christianity to Islam and married to a 45-year-old man with children twice her age, have roiled the country in recent months.
The girls are mostly kidnapped by their own acquaintances and relatives or by older men looking for brides. Sometimes they are taken by powerful landlords as payment for outstanding debts by their daily waged parents. Police often look the other way, doing little to help these persecuted minorities. Once converted to Islam, the girls are quickly married off, often to older men or to their abductors, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Forced conversion in Pakistan is a money-making business
Child protection activists opine that forced conversion in Pakistan is a money-making business which involves Islamic clerics who solemnize the marriages, magistrates who legalize the illicit unions and corrupt local police who aid the perpetrators by refusing to investigate or sabotaging investigations.
One activist, Jibran Nasir, called the network a “mafia” that preys on non-Muslim girls because they are the most vulnerable and the easiest targets “for older men with paedophilia urges.” The goal is to secure virginal brides rather than to seek new converts to Islam.
Minorities constitute 3.6 per cent of Pakistan’s 220 million people and often are the target of discrimination. Lack of proper investigation, prosecution of the accused, and denial of the right to the reunification of such abducted victims with their guardians make the victims an easy and vulnerable prey to the Islamic predators. And moreover, those who rarely dare to speak up against these atrocities are targeted with charges of blasphemy. All in all, justice is rare in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
US lists Pak, China as countries with poor religious freedom
The US State Department on December 8 declared Pakistan “a country of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms. Pakistan and China along with Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were placed in the list for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.