Need stressed for societal response to sexual violence, abuse of religion


LAHORE, Pakistan: A Zoom Consultation Meeting was organized under the aegis of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) to call attention to the threatening issue of growing expression of violence in abuse of children and women.

The meeting was attended by human rights activists, researchers, and media personnel virtually.

In the opening remarks, the Executive Director CSJ Peter Jacob said that the growing pattern of violent behavior particularly against the weaker sections of society.

Peter Jacob said that various expressions of violence instill a sense of insecurity and freedoms on one hand and multiply lawlessness on the other.

Justice (retd) Mehta Kailash Kohli said that the government of Pakistan will have to wake up to its responsibility regarding protecting the rights of minorities within the institutional frameworks and must investigate the cases under Section 498 B and other provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Justice (retd) Mehta Kailash Kohli said that the Parliamentary Committee on Protections from forced conversions has played a negligible role in providing affirmative action to uphold and safeguard the rights of minorities in the issue of forced conversion and marriages. He demanded the minimum age for marriage should be raised to 18 years through the amendment of the Child Marriage Restraint Act in all the provinces.

The Chairperson Minorities Rights Committee Sumera Shafique stressed that forced conversions have become an abuse of religion, human rights and law which further hinder the victim families’ access to fair trials against the perpetrators.

Moreover, the practice for conversion is well established and provides abductors seeking immunity from the initial crime of abduction and subsequent domestic violence and sexual abuse charges.

Sumera Shafique suggested the need to ensure protection for all relevant parties involved in the investigation and the trial of forced conversion cases – the victim, the victim’s family, lawyer, and even the judges.

“The fact that abductions and forced conversions are not reported adds to the culture of impunity that benefits abductors,” she added.

The Consultant for Legal and Policy Research Sohail Warraich briefed participants about the legal and administrative hurdles that most of the victims face while fighting their battle for justice in the cases of Forced Conversions.

The Minority Rights Activists pointed out that after forcefully converting; girls are often prohibited from contacting their families. The perpetrators in such cases influence local power structures in order to institutionalize discriminatory practices against minority communities. Throughout the whole process of pressing charges and testifying, the girl or woman remains in the custody of the perpetrator of the forced conversion, which facilitates a testimony in their favor as a result of constant pressure and fear of violent retaliation. Thus, many families choose not to report cases against influential abusers due to death threats.

The participants resolved to follow up the issue as their responsibility as citizens. They urged the government to adopt effective administrative, legal, and legislative measures to curb the criminality involved in the cases of violence, child abuse, and forced conversions.

The meeting was closed at the soft launch of the Urdu documentary with English subtitles produced by CSJ Badal-dou-Nam (Name Without Soul), directed by Ahmar A. Rehman and Asad Ali Shah.

Quoting the data compiled by the CSJ on cases of forced conversions, the documentary highlighted the trends from 2013 to 2020 which showed that at least 46% of the converted females were below the age of 18 which points out that these are the victims of child sexual abuse. It showed that minority’s susceptibility to forced conversions is related, among other factors, to social and economic vulnerability, such as poverty and social alienation and they lack proper space in education, jobs, and community life.

The documentary also included the views of experts including Hina Jillani, Bishop Alexander John Malik, Maulana Imran ul Haq, Peter Jacob, Dr Akhtar Ali Sayed, and Imrana Komal.

Link of Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JufIIEbq1fo

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