Forced marriages and conversions need to be discouraged: speakers


KARACHI: Senior representatives of civil society, political representatives and analysts, human rights activists, religious scholars have stressed upon the prevention to curb forced marriages and conversion issues in Sindh.
They expressed their views in a consultation meeting conducted by South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) focusing on forced marriages and conversion consequences and issues at a provincial level. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss forced marriages and conversion of religious minorities and its root causes in Sindh, to get opinions from policy makers and parliamentarians in this regard. 
Speaking at the occasion, renowned Political Analyst Zulfiqar Halepoto said that CSOs, lawyers and parliamentarians should establish a pressure group for demanding the approval draft form provincial assemblies regarding forced marriages and conversion. Civil Society Activist Halepoto said, “In the Rinkle Kumari case, till today, no details of the committee formed are available from the head of then federal minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio. I was part of that committee and we worked hard for a month but ironically we do not know about the details.”
All Hindu Panchayat of Pakistan senior Member and advocate Kalpina Devi said, “Laws exist in Pakistan but unfortunately not implemented in sprit.” She said, “Forced conversions are being mostly held in poor localities like Tharparkar.” 
Kalpina said, “Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2013 but was not implemented. If you cannot implement the law then why have you occupied the seats?” Kalpina said that there was also a dire need of change in syllabus.
She said that because of this discrimination, there is a migration of minorities going on. “Yesterday my brother along with his family moved from here. From Sukkur and Thul, twenty six families have migrated respectively in recent days,” she said.
PML-F MPA Nanad Kumar said, “We have to take collective efforts for promotion of the pro-minorities ethic dialogues and manage the conflicts at a national level,” he said.
Pakistan People’s Party MPA Dr Lal Chand said, “No voice is raised against those who are involved in forced marriages and conversions.”
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muhammad Hussain Mahnati said, “Society’s pattern has changed and people of all religions are facing myriad issues in Pakistan. Radio, TV and Drama have promoted vulgarity.” He said, “We condemn the migration of Hindu communities.”
All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat Secretary General Ravi Dawani said, “Young girls are mostly targets of forced conversions and of forced marriages. Why are not the cases of forced conversions of boys or elder women coming out? Even young girls of minorities are kept in the eyes long before conversion.” He said that there were some organisations and individuals who are targeting minorities for forced conversions. Ravi said, “Forced conversion cases were highlighted during General Zia’s tenure and it rose to peek in the year 2000 or so.”
On this occasion, South Asia Partnership Pakistan Provincial Coordinator Shahnaz Sheedi shared that the SAP-PK is going to draft the bill to curb forced marriages and conversions for protection of religious minorities and providing them equal opportunities and legislation at provincial levels in Pakistan. She said that this consultation would provide guidelines to curb forced marriages and conversions at the provincial level. Advocate Rochi Ram, Zulifqar Ali Shah, Amaranth, Virjee Kolhi also spoke on the occasion.

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