UN experts slam Pakistan on its lack of protection of Hindu, Christian women

NewsDrum Desk
New Update

Geneva, Apr 12 (PTI) Expressing dismay at the continuing lack of protection for young women and girls from the minority communities, especially Christians and Hindus, in Pakistan, UN experts have said the country needs to uphold its obligations under the relevant international covenant.


“Christian and Hindu girls remain particularly vulnerable to forced religious conversion, abduction, trafficking, child, early and forced marriage, domestic servitude and sexual violence,” the experts said.

“The exposure of young women and girls belonging to religious minority communities to such heinous human rights violations and the impunity of such crimes can no longer be tolerated or justified,” a statement from the Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights, said quoting the experts.

They expressed concern that forced marriages and religious conversions of girls from religious minorities which have been coerced are validated by the courts, often invoking religious law to justify keeping victims with their abductors rather than allowing them to return them to their parents. “Perpetrators often escape accountability, with police dismissing crimes under the guise of ‘love marriages’,” they said.


The experts stressed that child, early and forced marriage “cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds” and underlined that, under international law, consent is irrelevant when the victim is a child under the age of 18.

“A woman’s right to choose a spouse and freely enter into marriage is central to her life, dignity and equality as a human being and must be protected and upheld by law,” the experts said. They stressed the need for provisions to invalidate, annul or dissolve marriages contracted under duress, with due consideration for the women and girls concerned, and to ensure access to justice, remedy, protection and adequate assistance for victims.

The experts included Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Nicolas Levrat, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi, Working group on discrimination against women and girls.


The experts also highlighted certain cases of forced religious conversions from Hindu and Christian minorities and said: “Notwithstanding the right of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in accordance with article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, change of religion or belief in all circumstances must be free, without coercion and undue inducements.

“Pakistan needs to uphold its obligations in relation to article 18 of the ICCPR and prohibit forced religious conversions,” the experts said.

Adopted on December 16, 1996, the ICCPR or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an important multiparty human rights treaty that provided a range of protections for civil and political rights.

They also urged Pakistan to bring perpetrators to justice, enforce existing legal protections against child, early and forced marriage, abduction and trafficking of minority girls, and uphold the country’s international human rights obligations, the statement said. PTI NPK AKJ NPK NPK