Do not amend the law curtailing the forced conversion of Minority girls in Sindh-Pakistan
This petition had 266 supporters
We, human and women rights advocates, write to you to express our profound concern regarding the news about the proposed amendments to the recently passed legislation, “Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015”, which currently makes it a punishable offense for anyone to force a child under 18 years of age to change their religion and enter into a marriage.
Any amendments by Sindh Government to nullify the substantive effect of the Protection of Minorities Bill would make it legal for a person to force children, using threats, violence or duress, including forced marriage, to change their religion. Amending this Bill would undo the years of work by human rights and women’s rights organizations in their efforts to legally protect religious minority girls from forced conversions.
- Per the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), at least 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year 
- The Asian Human Rights Commission documents that 20-25 forced conversions are occurring every month in Sindh, Pakistan. There are weekly reports of girls from the Hindu and Christian and other minority communities being kidnapped and forcibly converted, and after that, forcibly married to their perpetrators.
- The disappearance of these girl children and the denial of their fundamental freedom of religion has caused great anguish to the victims and their families.
- Per the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the police, in many cases, refuse to register the First Information Reports (‘FIR’) Complaints, rendering the girls’ families with little recourse against the assailants. In those cases, where a police report is filed, the courts’ practice, has typically been to not decide custody matters for the girl’s family, even when the girls are 12 or 13 years old .
- The result has been the further isolation of minority religious groups from the public sphere and contributed to the increasing exodus of religious minorities out of Sindh and Pakistan.
Failure of Sindh and Pakistani Governments to ratify the unanimously passed Protection of Minorities Bill and protect against the forced conversion of minor girls would violate Pakistan’s national and international legal obligations, including:
- Pakistan Constitution: Pakistan Constitution guarantees the security of life and liberty of every citizen; the inviolability of man; freedom of association; the right to free speech and expression, the right to profess, practice and propagate religion; and guarantees that all citizens are equal before the law .
- Pakistan’s Penal Code: Pakistan’s Penal Code prohibits the rape and the abduction of women.
- International Conventions: Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHR) - The UNHR guarantees the right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination; the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to a fair and public hearing; and the right to freedom of thought and religion .
It is, therefore, our humble request that you:
- Call upon the Governor of Sindh to ratify this the Protection of Minorities Bill.
- Request the Government of Pakistan to follow the law, rather than to succumb to the demands of the hard-line extremist groups who are demanding the substantive provisions of the law be nullified.
- To protect the rights of the girl child from violence and harm, including the forced kidnapping, conversion, and marriage of minority girls.
Thank you in anticipation of your assistance with this urgent matter.
- International Sindhi Women Organisation (ISWO), UK, (www.iswo.org.uk)
- World Sindhi Congress, (www.worldsindhicongress.org)
- Sindhi Sangat UK (www.SindhiSangatUK.com)
- Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (www.unpo.org)
- Asian Human Rights Commission (www.ahrc.asia)
- Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research (http://www.piler.org.pk/)
- REAT Network - Sindh, Pakistan (http://reatnetwork.pk)
- Active Citizens of Pakistan, Sindh, Pakistan
- District Development Association of Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan
- MIRA - Marvi Institute of Research and Advocacy, Sindh, Pakistan
- Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN), Pakistan
- Pakistan Minorities Teachers Association; Shadow Organization, Pakistan
- Asian Human Rights Commission – Freedom of Religion Statement, 2011, documenting various forced conversion and kidnapping of minor Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan: Statement No. AHRC-STM-159-2011 (stating: “The Justice and Peace Commission commented that ''thousands of girls from minorities are kidnapped and forced into marriages (against their will)''. The Justice and Peace Commission also stated that ''we are fighting against the cancer of kidnapping and forced marriages''.)
- Government of Pakistan, The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as amended 30 April 2010), available at: http://www.infopak.gov.pk/Constitution30April2010.pdf arts 9, 15-17, 19, 20, 25 (1).
- CEDAW (n 33) arts 7, 8, 10, 18.
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