By turning down bill against forced conversion, Pakistan fails to address human rights violations
Minority Rights Group International condemns the recent decision of the Pakistani Parliamentary Committee to set aside a draft Bill aiming to address forced conversion in Pakistan. MRG works closely with members of many minority religious communities and sects in Pakistan and is aware of longstanding and serious concerns in the country regarding forced conversions. MRG works equally with majority led organizations in Pakistan who support inclusive citizenship and respect for diversity and equality. All our partners in Pakistan supported the move towards legislation on this issue. MRG is particularly aware of the impact of forced conversions (and linked abductions) on young girls from religious minority communities. The impacts of such events are felt not only by the victims themselves but also by all girls and young women who live with the threat of such events hanging over them, constraining their freedom to travel in safety and participate in education, business and political and social affairs in some cases. By framing legislation on this issue, the Government of Pakistan was moving to fully respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, in particular Article 20 (a) on freedom of religion, Article 25 on equality of citizens and Article 36 on the safeguard and protection of religious minorities, as well as the country’s obligations under international human rights law to protect minority rights including Freedom of Religion or Belief.
‘The decision of the Committee to not proceed with the legislation leaves religious minorities girls and young women asking themselves, once again, whether the Constitution of Pakistan is truly applicable to them’, stated Claire Thomas, Deputy Director at Minority Rights Group International. ‘The failure to address this acute problem means that the Government of Pakistan, and its institutions (the police, judiciary and social services) are hampered in their attempts to end the impunity of those who carry out abductions, rape and early age/child marriage under cover of forced conversion; and means that grievances will continue to build within minority communities who experience or witness such events but fail to get any remedy.