Each year in Pakistan, about a thousand girls belonging to Christian and Hindu religious minorities are kidnapped, converted and forced into Islamic marriage according to a new report out this week, produced by the Solidarity and Peace Movement - a coalition of NGOs, associations and institutions including the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Bishops.
The report says an estimated 700 cases per year involve Christian women and 300 Hindu girls. If these are the officially reported cases, "the true extent of the problem is probably much bigger, since many cases are not reported", explains the report titled: 'Forced marriages and forced conversions in the Christian community of Pakistan.
The text describes cases of Christian women, especially in Punjab and of Hindu women in Sindh. Most are girls between 12 and 25 years of age, from poor families and low social classes.
The report says few cases, come to court because young women are intimidated and abused. "Under the custody of the kidnapper, she may suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and beatings, if not human trafficking", notes the text.
The report describes the historical and social context of the problem and says the Christian community in Pakistan complains about "the non-existent legal guarantees, policies and procedures for the protection of human rights of religious minorities.
Dominican Fr James Channan, director of the Peace Centre in Lahore, said: "The phenomenon has been verified. It is really very alarming and disturbing for Christians and Hindus, who feel very insecure and vulnerable. We have dealt directly with several cases of forced marriages: the young people belonging to poor social class and often rich Muslim landowners take advantage of such abuse. In Pakistan, it seems to me that Christians and Hindus suffer social, religious and political discrimination, which is getting worse".
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