Abductions and forced conversion in Pakistan

Human rights organization calls for legal aid fund for victims of forced marriage (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns of a massive increase in abductions, forced conversions, and forced marriages of Christian and Hindu girls and young women in Pakistan. The human rights organization thus demanded the timely establishment of a legal aid fund, as a means to support the often destitute parents in taking legal action against forced conversions to the Muslim faith. "Most parents do not have the financial means to take legal action against the kidnappers, who are often known by name, or to ensure that their abducted daughters are released," explained Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Monday. "Pakistan's religious minorities are demanding an end to terror and arbitrariness by religious extremists. The kidnappers must be shown that their crimes have consequences and that they will be punished in court. Crimes against Christians and Hindu must no longer go unpunished!" It is estimated that around 1,000 Christians and Hindu men and women between the ages of 12 and 25 are abducted in Pakistan every year. They are forced to convert to the Muslim faith and/or forced to marry.

"As members of religious minorities, Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are often defenseless against attacks by Sunni extremists. But their families are no longer prepared to accept the abduction of their daughters without taking action," Delius added. On June 2, 2020, the lawyer of the Christian family Shehbaz filed a petition with the Pakistan Supreme Court to overturn a ruling of the District Court in Faisalbad. The lower court had declared the marriage of their abducted 14-year-old daughter Myra legal after the judges were presented with an apparently forged birth certificate stating that the girl was already 19 years old. Myra had been abducted by gunmen on the open street in the town of Madina near Faisalbad in late April 2020. She was later forced to convert to the Muslim faith and to marry her abductor Mohamad Nakash.

The 15-year-old Hindu girl Suntara was abducted from her village in Sindh province by gunmen on June 1, 2020. When her parents wanted to file a missing persons report, the police refused to accept it. On the same day, 19-year-old Bhagwanti Kohli was abducted from the village of Haji Saeed Burgadi in Sindh province. The young woman, who was already married, is now supposed to marry a Muslim who has already presented the police with a certificate of her alleged voluntary conversion.

Some girls or young women are also abducted in order to rape them or make them work as forced prostitutes. For example, on March 15, 2020, the deaf-mute Christian girl Komal Patras was abducted in the city of Lahore. The parents suspected three Muslims of the abduction. However, the police refused to mention the names of the suspects in the missing persons report.