UN calls on Pak to curb forced marriages of teenage girls from minority sects

Pakistan has been made to realise its consistent failure in ensuring religious security to minorities with the United Nations (UN) calling for immediately curbing coerced religious conversions, child marriages, kidnapping of teenage girls and their forced conversions and marriage to men twice their age.

In an appeal to Pakistan, the UN has urged the authorities to “stop the alleged abuse and kidnapping of teenagers, who are trafficked far from their homes and made to marry men sometimes twice their age”.

Rights experts, while reporting to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), presented many reports, giving clear indications of outright involvement of religious authorities and the complicity of security forces and the justice system, in cases of kidnapping, forced conversions and child marriages.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has made efforts to pass legislations prohibiting such illegal practices, rights experts have called on the Pakistan government to take tangible and on ground steps to curb the consistently increasing injustice to minorities.

“We urge the government to take immediate steps to prevent and thoroughly investigate these acts objectively and in line with domestic legislations and international human rights commitments. The perpetrators must be held fully accountable,” the experts said.

“Pakistan’s courts have enabled the perpetrators by accepting fraudulent evidence from them, regarding the age of the victims and their willingness to marry and convert to Islam,” a group of independent experts and special rapporteurs of the UN emphasised, putting significant focus on upholding the rights of women and children.

Criticising the justice system being manipulatively flawed in such matters, the rights experts said that the Pakistani courts have also “misused interpretations of religious laws to justify victims remaining with their abusers”.

“The police had also failed the victims’ families by refusing to register abductions, or dismissing them as love marriages,” they maintained.

“We are very concerned that marriages and conversions have taken place under the threat of violence to these girls, women or their families. The abductors force their victims to sign documents, which falsely attest to their being of legal age for marriage as well as marrying and converting of free will. These documents are cited by the police as evidence that no crime has occurred,” the rights experts said.

They added that it is important and pivotal that all victims, regardless of religious background, are afforded access to justice and equal protection under the law.

The experts emphasised on the need for Pakistani authorities to adopt and enforce legislations prohibiting forced conversions, forced and child marriages, kidnapping, and trafficking, calling for compliance by the country’s commitments to international human rights to combat slavery and human trafficking and to uphold the rights of women and children.

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