Compelled to marry Muslim men, adolescents live in fear of repercussions
At least a thousand girls, Christian and Hindu, are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men each year in Pakistan, according to a non-governmental organization in Karachi.
Forced conversion and marriage is common but receives little attention from local police or civil authorities, said Mahnaz Rehman, director of the NGO Aurat Foundation, which issued “Forced Marriages and Inheritance Deprivation.”
Girls who are forced into marriages and who must convert stay quiet because of threats and pressure, Rehman told Fides news agency. If the family lodges a complaint, the abductor makes a counter complaint, accusing the family and stating that the girl converted of her own free will. When called to testify in court, the girl often declares that her conversion and consent to marriage was voluntary. The case is then closed.
The practice is constant, said the Aurat Foundation. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which rates Pakistan as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern, said forced conversion "remains a systemic concern. These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime,” said the report.
One factor would appear determinant: “From the time in which the complaint is filed and the controversy begins up to the time of the hearing in court, the girls are held in custody by the abductors and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence. One manner of pressure is to convince the girls that if they abandon Islam for their true religion they would be apostates for which the punishment is death."
The report urges police and civil authorities to unmask the practice and rescue the girls members of religious minority groups. The Aurat Foundation has also proposed a bill to impede forced conversions.