Several members of the minority Hindu community held a protest march in Pakistan’s Karachi city on Thursday to draw attention to the menace of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu girls and women in the country.
The protest outside the Karachi Press Club and at the entrance of the Sindh Assembly building was organised by Pakistan Darawar Ittehad (PDI), a Hindu organisation.
“We wanted to highlight this big problem facing the Sindhi Hindus, especially in the rural areas where our young girls, some as young as 12 and 13 are abducted in broad daylight, forced to convert to Islam and then married off to older Muslim men,” a member of the PDI said.
He said the protest on Thursday had left some impact as many people were not even aware of this crime but admitted they were expecting a bigger turnout.
The protest went off peacefully with a large number of policemen standing at a distance from the protesters.
The protesters carried placards and banners which urged the government to pass a stalled bill against the forced conversion of Hindu girls and women.
In recent months there has been a surge in such cases in interior Sindh with the lower courts flooded with applications from affected parents seeking justice and the return of their daughters, sisters and wives.
Unfortunately, no representative from the provincial government came out to listen to the pleas of the protesters who dispersed peacefully.
In 2019, the issue of abducting and forcible conversion of Hindu girls in various districts of Sindh province was taken up in the Sindh Assembly.
A resolution was debated and unanimously passed after it was modified over objections of certain lawmakers that it should not be restricted to only Hindu girls.
But the bill, which criminalised forcible religious conversions was later rejected in the assembly. A similar bill was again proposed, but it got rejected in 2021.
In January this year, as many as 12 United Nations rights experts expressed alarm over the rising incidents of kidnapping, forced conversions and marriages of girls as young as 13 in Pakistan.
Forced conversion and forced marriages are prohibited in Islam.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s report, around 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in the Muslim-majority country.
Muslims account for about 96 per cent of Pakistan’s 207 million population, Hindus 2.1 per cent and Christians about 1.6 per cent according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates.
The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim residents.
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