WASHINGTON: Pakistan needs to overhaul laws to ban forced conversions which are leading to rape or other abuse against hundreds of non-Muslim girls each year, an advocacy group said Wednesday.
The Movement for Solidarity and Peace, which campaigns against religious violence in Pakistan, said that forced conversions generally involve the abductions of girls or young women who are then converted to Islam and married.
The girls are often raped or beaten and, when the family complains to police, the abductor responds that the girl has willingly converted, the group said in a report.
While exact figures are unverifiable, an estimated 100 to 700 Christian girls and at least 300 Hindu girls undergo such conversions in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation each year, the group said.
“These trends threaten religious freedom and public safety for all people in Pakistan,” the group´s director of advocacy, Amber Jamil, told a briefing at the US Congress.
The group called for Pakistan´s judiciary to provide a legal definition for forced conversions in the penal code.
While abductors would violate multiple laws, Pakistan generally considers non-Muslim marriages invalid if one spouse later converts to Islam, the study said.
The group also called for more funding for the government to enforce laws and for a study to look more closely at the frequency of forced conversions across Pakistan.