LAHORE, PAKISTAN, June 6, 2019 (Religion News Service): Every year, thousands of Hindu and Christian girls and young women are kidnapped in Pakistan and forcibly married, disappearing from their families. And while these forced conversions have been going on for decades, a recent surge in reported cases has brought the issue back into the limelight. Around 1,000 cases of Hindu and Christian girls being forced to convert were estimated in the province of southern Sindh alone in 2018, according to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. There are no concrete numbers for the rest of the conservative country, which is around 96 percent Muslim. In the majority of these cases, the girls are under 18. And while marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Pakistan, the law is often ignored.
"This appears to be a systematic, organized trend and it needs to be seen in the broader context of the coercion of vulnerable girls and young women from communities that are already marginalized by their faith, class and socioeconomic status," said Mehdi Hasan, chairperson of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "The ugly reality of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern mainstream (Muslim) Pakistan." Meanwhile, there is no law banning forced conversions. "The government has done little in the past to stop such forced marriages," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report. "(The executive branch) asked lawmakers to pass effective legislation to end the practice," the report added, but nothing happened.
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