UN experts: Pakistan must protect minority girls from forced marriage and conversion to Islam

Эксперты ООН: Пакистан должен защитить девочек из числа меньшинств от принудительных браков и обращения в ислам

UN building in Geneva. UN experts: Pakistan must protect minority girls from forced marriage and conversion to Islam Human Rights

Mishal Rashid, a young Pakistani woman, was kidnapped from her home in 2022. It was morning, she was getting ready for school. Rashid was sexually assaulted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to marry her captor. Independent UN experts report that girls from Christian and Hindu minorities are often victims of such abuses.

UN human rights activists have expressed concern about the climate of impunity in the country and how forced marriages and religious conversions of minority girls are justified by courts, often citing religious laws. As a result, victims remain with their captors.

“Criminals often avoid responsibility, and the police turn a blind eye to their crimes,” experts say.

Human rights activists emphasize that child, early and forced marriage cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds. They add that under international law, consent is irrelevant if a child under 18 is forced into marriage.

“A woman’s right to choose her spouse and marry freely is central to her life, concerns dignity and equality, and must be protected and supported by law,” the experts said.

They stressed the need to establish provisions for the annulment, annulment and dissolution of forced marriages, as well as the need to ensure that victims have access to justice and legal and other remedies.

The experts also highlighted a case where on March 13, 2024, a 13-year-old Christian girl was allegedly kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to her kidnapper. Her age was misstated on her marriage certificate.

The right of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is enshrined in Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, experts remind. At the same time, changing religion or beliefs under any circumstances should be a free choice and occur without coercion. Pakistan must ban forced religious conversion, human rights activists say.

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“Authorities Pakistan should enact laws to ensure that marriages are entered into only with the free and full consent of the potential spouses, and strictly enforce them. The minimum age for marriage should be raised to 18 years, including for girls,” experts said.

Human rights activists called on Pakistan to bring all perpetrators to justice and ensure compliance with existing legal measures to protect girls and women from child, early and forced marriage, kidnapping and human trafficking.

Several UN Special Rapporteurs made statements, including Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Women and Children Siobhan Mullally and Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery Tomoya Obokata.

Special Rapporteurs are part of the so-called “Special Procedures” of the Human Rights Council. They are not UN staff and are independent of any government or organization. They serve in an individual capacity and are not paid for their work.


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