For Immediate Release
Monday, April 7, 2014
Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan Issues Global Appeal to End Forced Marriages & Conversions of Christian Girls and Women in Pakistan
International Release of Investigative Report, Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions In the Christian Community of Pakistan, with Recommendations for Action
Contact: MSP media office email@example.com
(Washington, DC) – Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan (MSP) is issuing an appeal for action by releasing an investigative report detailing forced marriages and conversions of Christian girls and women in Pakistan. [The Christian community in Pakistan is over 2 million in size, accounts for 42 percent of Pakistan’s minority population, and is mostly resident in the Punjab.]
The prevalence of forced conversion and marriage are difficult to accurately estimate due to reporting deficiencies and the complex nature of the crime. Estimates therefore range from 100 to 700 victim Christian girls every year (conservative estimates for Hindu girls are on the order of 300 per year).
MSP’s investigations find that cases of forced marriages/conversions follow a distinctive pattern: Christian girls — usually between the ages of 12 and 25 — are abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party. The victim’s family usually files a First Information Report (FIR) for abduction or rape with the local police station. The abductor, on behalf of the victim girl, files a counter FIR, accusing the Christian family of harassing the willfully converted and married girl, and for conspiring to convert the girl back to Christianity. Upon production in the courts or before the magistrate, the victim girl is asked to testify whether she converted and married of her own free will or if she was abducted. (In most cases, the girl remains in custody of the abductor while judicial proceedings are carried out). Upon the girl’s pronouncement that she willfully converted and consented to the marriage, the case is settled without relief for the family. Once in the custody of the abductor, the victim girl may be subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse.
These patterns of violence and miscarriages of justice are explored in the report through an examination of 10 illustrative cases.
The report also describes the historical and social context of the problem, and the particular grievances of Pakistan’s Christian community in relation to the existing legal, political, and procedural guarantees for the protection of human rights of Pakistan’s religious minorities. The report also highlights the patterns of violence through which the law and social attitudes become complicit in providing immunity for perpetrators, and the complex nature of associated crimes that make it difficult to categorize this crime as specific to religious identity. The report concludes with detailed recommendations at various levels— national, provincial, and local — for key stakeholders.
MSP is mobilizing an inclusive coalition to raise awareness on this issue. MSP will host outreach events in the coming weeks in Pakistan (in collaboration with the National Commission of Justice and Peace in Pakistan) and around the world.
The current investigative effort by MSP follows its 2012 release of “Shia Hazara of Pakistan: A Community Under Siege", an in-depth report revealing abuse of religious minorities in Pakistan’s eastern province of Balochistan.
Concerned individuals can view and download the report and take action at www.msp-pk.org, Movement for Peace and Solidarity in Pakistan’s website.
Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP) in Pakistan is a non-partisan organization devoted to building advocacy, education and respect for human rights in Pakistan. Its mission is to ensure that all citizens in Pakistan can avail their rights to equality, security and freedom of religion under the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *