Minor girls from minority communities are kidnapped and pressured into marriages with Muslim men twice their age

New Delhi: Numerous girls from minority communities in Sindh, Pakistan, including Hindus, Sikhs, and others, are currently living in fear due to the rise in instances of forced conversion. Minor girls from minority communities are frequently kidnapped and pressured into marriages with Muslim men twice their age.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to a Hindu resident in Sindh, Pakistan, who wished to be anonymous. He said, “In the interior regions of Sindh, there is a lack of education. There are several cases of minor girls getting abducted and hidden at a certain place, of which their parents and relatives are unaware, including the police. Then, in the next few days, we come to know through social media or local paper that the abducted girl has been converted to Islam.”

Most of the Hindu and Sikh residents staying there have told this paper that the minor girls are vulnerable to several atrocities. These minor girls often get traumatised and unwilling to speak to their families and relatives about their experiences. Cities like Karachi, Islamabad and many more do not have such issues but the border areas like Punjab and Sindh (closer to the Indian border) have recorded several cases. Several Hindu and Sikh families living in these provinces prefer their daughters to get married early and settle down for social security.

In 2021, the Imran Khan-led Pakistani government intended to introduce a bill against forced conversion, to which Islamist extremists and Pakistani clerics opposed strongly. Later, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri cautioned that passing a law against forced conversions would worsen the nation’s peace and cause further problems for minorities at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions. Additionally, it was mentioned that the Prime Minister’s Office and the Speaker of the National Assembly might take some other actions to stop forced conversions.

According to a report by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in Islamabad, there is no proof that minor girls of the minority communities in Sindh have been forcibly converted to Islam. The study is said to be based on a decade-long episodic fieldwork project, interviews with members of the Sindhi community, and statistical analysis of information gathered from seminaries and courts spread out across the province. The majority of the claimed forced conversion cases brought up by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and minority leaders over the past ten years are based on newspaper reports rather than first-hand accounts, as claimed by the research head of the study, Sufi Ghulam Hussain. Numerous Hindu lawmakers criticized the decision.

Researcher Dhritiman Mukherjee told this paper, “Though the government sought to enact laws prohibiting forced conversion, none of them has been successful because Pakistan is home to many religious hardliners who are important to the country’s electoral base. Therefore, the few attempts made by different governments in the past to prevent forced conversions have proved to be inconsequential.”

Several Hindu men are also subjected to atrocities, however, justice is often delayed. “Progressive organisations force the government to take action against injustice on Hindu minorities but the delay in the justice delivery often leads to insecurity amongst minorities,” a Hindu resident of Karachi, Pakistan, told this paper.