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girls from religious minorities in south asia

are targeted because of their faith.

#EndForcedMarriage

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Dear Prime Minister of Pakistan,

Maira's Story

Join us in wearing GREEN for Maira on 11 October!

We’re wearing green on the International Day of the Girl Child – 11th October – to call attention to Maira’s story.

Will you join us? Wear green, and share your #endforcedmarriage pictures on social media.

Don’t forget to share a link to our open letter with your followers.

Together, we can show global support to end this injustice!

Thousands of girls from religious minorities face forced conversion through marriage every year in South Asia.

WEBINAR: Queen’s Speech 2021 –
Does the government want to protect or prohibit speech?

 

During the State re-opening of Parliament on Tuesday 11 May 2021, Her Majesty the Queen outlined the government’s agenda for the coming session.

Join us as our expert panel discuss the agenda for free speech and expression this year, with particular focus on campuses and the streets.

By listening to recent examples of censorship and legal insights about the proposed laws for higher education and public assembly, we will consider what the future of free speech might look like in the UK. Does the government plan to protect or prohibit speech?

Friday, 14 May 2021
4:00pm to 5:00pm BST
on Zoom Including live Q&A Session

This webinar has limited spaces, so please sign up to attend soon.

Our Letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan:

To,

His Excellency,

Mr. Imran Khan

Hon’ble Prime Minister of Pakistan

 

Your Excellency,

Every year, human rights groups estimate that one thousand young girls from religious minorities are forcibly married in Pakistan. While this is an issue that affects girls from all communities, girls who are Christians or from other religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, as they are targeted to be forcibly converted to Islam.

The case of Maira is but one example of this.  She was only 14 years old when she was kidnapped on her way to school and forcibly married to a much older man. She was beaten, abused, and forced to turn away from the Christian faith. When her family sought justice and protection for her, the Lahore High Court ordered that she be returned to her abductor. Thankfully, Maira managed to escape her captor and is now in hiding with her family, working to have the forced marriage annulled.

In the thousand cases similar to Maira’s, young girls aged between 12 and 15 are abducted, converted to Islam and then married to the abductor or to a third party. The victim’s family then tries to file a First Information Report for the abduction or rape at the local police station.  However, here they are met with a hostile police administration that often refuses to register complaints. In cases where the parent can have the complaint registered, the police fail to rescue the girl.   

Sadly, this happens frequently despite legal provisions prohibiting child marriages. The courts too are reluctant to protect the minor girls, allegedly due to pressure from violent mobs.  

Pakistan has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Article 16 (2) of CEDAW expressly prohibits child marriage, stating that “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.

Pakistan has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) where a child is defined as anyone under 18 years of age. Article 9 of the CRC protects the right of the child to not be separated from their parents against their will. Article 14 (1) of the CRC also states that state parties need to respect the right of children to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. 

Early and forced marriage, coupled with forced conversions, places girls from minority communities at high risk of violence and abuse and deprives them of their fundamental right to education, health and  freedom of religion. Pakistan’s minor girls need the protection of law and the care of their families. The government of Pakistan should take all necessary steps to end the forced marriage and conversion of these girls.

As concerned men and women, we call upon you to: 

  • Ensure the rule of law and protection of at-risk girls from religious minorities;
  • Set up helplines for easy and safe reporting, and immediate assistance, including legal help for the minor girls and their families;
  • Engage in police reform to improve response times where abduction is alleged to have occurred to ensure registration of First Information reports or criminal complaints;
  • Train police about issues faced by religious minority communities including the identification of fraudulent marriage and conversion certificates;
  • Ensure in-camera proceedings where the statement of the minor girls is recorded not in open court but in the chamber of the judge, without the presence of the press or the public to mitigate coercive efforts by abductors;
  • Ensure the protection of minors by mandating that the custody of an abducted and converted minor be returned to her family or legal guardian. 

 

ADF International is a faith-based, legal advocacy organisation. We work tirelessly to protect fundamental freedoms, including everybody’s right to freedom of religion. You can learn more about the wider work of ADF International here