Pakistani Christians protest against the child marriage and forced conversion, in Karachi, Pakistan.(AP)
The experts said it was imperative that all victims, regardless of religious background, are afforded access to justice and equal protection under the law.
UN experts on Monday expressed alarm at the reported rise in abductions, forced marriages and conversions of underage girls and young women from religious minorities in Pakistan and called for immediate efforts to curtail the practices and ensure justice for victims.
“We urge the Government to take immediate steps to prevent and thoroughly investigate these acts objectively and in line with domestic legislation and international human rights commitments. Perpetrators must be held fully accountable,” the experts said.
“We are deeply troubled to hear that girls as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to locations far from their homes, made to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam, all in violation of international human rights law,” they added. “We are very concerned that such marriages and conversions take place under threat of violence to these girls and women or their families.”
Special Rapporteurs and other independent experts are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
According to UN Human Rights Office statement, the experts deplored the lack of access to justice for victims and their families while noting Pakistan’s previous attempts to pass legislation prohibiting forced conversions and protecting religious minorities. They also highlighted the reports alleging involvement of religious authorities and the complicity of security forces and the justice system in these so-called marriages and conversions.
The experts also alleged that courts have on occasion misused interpretations of religious law to justify victims remaining with their abusers.
“Family members say that victims’ complaints are rarely taken seriously by the police, either refusing to register these reports or arguing that no crime has been committed by labelling these abductions as “love marriages,” the experts said.
“Abductors force their victims to sign documents which falsely attest to their being of legal age for marriage as well as marrying and converting of free will. These documents are cited by the police as evidence that no crime has occurred.”