PAKISTAN: Urgent action required against the forced conversion of minority girls

Dear Prime Minister,

We, human rights and women rights advocates, write to you to express our profound concern regarding the proposed amendments set to be applied to a recently passed legislation, “Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015”.

This legislation, the Protection of Minorities Bill, passed unanimously in the Sindh Provincial Assembly, as it currently stands, makes it a punishable offense for anyone to force a child under 18 years of age to change religion and enter into a marriage. It is designed to protect the rights of the girl child by prosecuting the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

However, it is now under threat; the Federal government of Pakistan, the Pakistani Military, and extremist groups are demanding its reversal.

Our grave concern is that the proposed amendments being considered by the Sindh Government would nullify the substantive effect of the Protection of Minorities Bill. This would end up making it legal for a person to force a child, using threats, violence or duress, to change their religion.

It 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.

The following facts need to be considered to fully appreciate the gravity of the problem.

o As per the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), at least 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year.

o 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, Christian, and other minority communities being kidnapped and forcibly converted, and thereafter, forcibly married to their perpetrators.

* The disappearance of these girl children and the denial of their fundamental freedom of religion have caused great anguish to the victims and their families.

* As per the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the police, in many cases, refuse to register First Information Reports (Complaints), rendering the girls’ families with little recourse against assailants. In those cases, where a police report is filed, the court practice has typically been not to decide custody matters in favour of the girls’ 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 has contributed to the increasing exodus of religious minorities out of Pakistan.

* Failure of the Pakistan government to abide by the unanimously passed Protection of Minorities Bill and protect against the forced conversion of minor girls, violates Pakistan’s national and international legal obligations, including:

The Pakistani 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 law.

The Pakistani Penal Code: Pakistan’s Penal Code prohibits the rape and 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.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – The UDHR 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. [iv]

It is therefore, our humble request that you:

• Call upon the government of Pakistan to uphold and adhere to the Protection of Minorities Bill.

• Request the government of Pakistan to follow the law, rather than succumb to the demands of hardline extremist groups and the Military, who are demanding that the Pakistani government force the Sindh Provincial Assembly to amend substantive provisions of the law in order that its protection for minorities is nullified.

• Use your vantage to help protect the rights of the girl child from violence and harm, including forced kidnapping, conversion, and marriage of minority girls. 
Thank you, in anticipation of your assistance with this urgent matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Bijo Francis
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

On Behalf of –


International Sindhi Women Organisation (ISWO), UK, (
World Sindhi Congress, UK (
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK (
British Pakistani Christians, UK (
The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, (

Sindh, Pakistan

Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research –
REAT Network –, Sindh, Pakistan 
Active Citizens of Pakistan, Sindh, Pakistan 
District Development Association of Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan
MIRA – Marvi Institute of Research and Advocacy, Sindh, Pakistan