Pakistan must work to end forced child marriage



UN rights experts on Monday deplored a reported rise in kidnappings, forced marriages and conversion of girls from Pakistan’s religious minorities, and urged the government to quickly halt such practices.

“We are deeply concerned to hear that girls as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to places far from their homes, forced to marry men sometimes twice their age, and forced to convert to Islam,” the experts said.

“We are deeply concerned that such marriages and conversions are taking place under the threat of violence against these girls and women, or their families.”

The experts called on the Pakistani government to “take immediate steps to prevent and thoroughly investigate these acts.”

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Child Marriage: Accepting False Evidence

The group of about a dozen independent UN human rights experts includes UN Special Rapporteurs on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, contemporary forms of slavery, violence against women and minority issues.

It said such investigations should be conducted “objectively and in line with domestic legislation and international human rights obligations.”

The experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the international body, cited reports that Pakistan’s court system enables crimes against religious minority girls and young women to be committed “by accepting falsified evidence without critical examination.” .

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They said: “Family members say victims’ complaints are rarely taken seriously by the police, either by refusing to record these reports or arguing that no crime was committed by calling these abductions ‘love marriages’.”

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equal protection

The experts noted that kidnappers “often force their victims to sign documents falsely proving that they have reached the legal age for marriage as well as marriage and conversion of free will.”

“The police cite these documents as evidence that no crime occurred.”

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The experts stressed that it is crucial that all victims, regardless of their religious background, have access to justice and equal protection under the law.

They said the Pakistani authorities “should adopt and implement legislation prohibiting forced conversion, forced and child marriage, kidnapping and trafficking.”

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