UN experts insist Pakistan must act to eliminate forced child marriage

Monday, United Nations human rights experts deplored reports of an increase in abductions, forced marriages, and conversions of girls from Pakistan’s religious minorities, and urged the government to immediately stop these activities.

“We are deeply troubled to hear that girls as young as 13 are being abducted from their families, trafficked to distant locations, forced to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam,” stated the experts.

“We are extremely concerned that these marriages and conversions occur under the threat of violence against these girls and women or their families.”

The experts urged the Pakistani government to “immediately prevent and investigate these acts thoroughly.”

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The group of over a dozen independent United Nations experts on human rights includes UN special rapporteurs on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, contemporary forms of slavery, violence against women, and minority concerns.

It stated that such investigations should be conducted “objectively and in accordance with domestic law and international human rights obligations.”

The experts, who are selected by the UN Human Rights Council but do not speak on its behalf, cited allegations indicating that Pakistan’s court system encourages crimes against girls and young women from religious minority groups “by accepting fraudulent evidence without critical examination.”

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“Family members claim that police rarely take the complaints of victims seriously, either refusing to register these reports or arguing that no crime has been committed by labeling these abductions as ‘love marriages,’” they explained.

The experts noted that abductors frequently “compel their victims to sign documents that falsely attest to their being of legal age for marriage and marrying and converting of their own free will.”

The police claim these records as evidence that no crime has happened.

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The experts underlined that all victims, regardless of their religious background, must have access to justice and get equal legal protection.

They stated that the Pakistani government must establish and enforce laws outlawing forced conversions, forced and underage marriages, kidnapping, and trafficking.

© Agence France-Presse

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