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Pakistan: 124 including 81 Hindu women forcefully converted to Islam in the year 2022, 58% were minors

The fact sheet revealed that 23 per cent of girls were below 14 years of age, 36 per cent of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12 per cent of the victims were adults.

The abduction and forced conversion of girls belonging to minority communities continue unabated in Pakistan. Recently, a Human Rights Observer 2023 fact sheet revealed that in the year 2022, as many as 124 women belonging to minority communities were forcefully converted to Islam in the Islamic country. Out of this, 81 were Hindu, 42 were Christian and one was Sikh.

Further, the fact sheet revealed that 23 per cent of girls were below 14 years of age, 36 per cent of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12 per cent of the victims were adults, while the age of 28 per cent of the victims was not reported.

In 2022, 65% of cases of forced religious conversion were reported in Sindh, 33% in Punjab, and 0.8% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, respectively.

The fact sheet stated that the religious content against minorities increased in curriculum and textbooks throughout the year 2022, and a number of perennial and new challenges emerged in the education system.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) released a report that addressed five key issues affecting religious minorities, including discrimination in the education system, the prevalence of forced faith conversions, the abuse of blasphemy laws, the establishment of the National Commission for Minorities, and jail remissions for minority prisoners.

According to the data report, 171 people were charged under the blasphemy laws, with Punjab accounting for 66% of the cases and Sindh accounting for 19%.

The districts of Karachi had the highest occurrence, followed by Chiniot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan, Nankana Sahib, Lahore, and Sheikhupura.

Notably, in January this year, experts at the United Nations expressed grave concern about the alarming rise in kidnappings, coerced marriages, and forced conversions of minor girls belonging to religious minority communities in Pakistan. They called for immediate action to ensure justice for the underage victims. 

“Perpetrators must be held fully accountable…We are deeply troubled to hear that girls as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to locations far from their homes, made to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam, all in violation of international human rights law,” the experts said.

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