» 04/23/2012 16:19 PAKISTAN No to forced conversions to Islam and marriage without consent, says Justice and Peace Catholic activists urge the Supreme Court to stop violations and protect abuse victims. They appeal on behalf of three young Hindu women forced to marry three Muslim men against their will. In a “male dominated, violent and bigoted environment,” women cannot truly exercise free will.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – In a press
release sent to AsiaNews, Fr Emmanuel
Yousaf Masi and Peter Jacob, respectively the national director and executive
secretary of the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace
(NCJP), call on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stop forced conversions, protect
the victims of abuses, ensure justice and enforce respect for human rights. In the
statement, the Christian activists urge the highest court in the land to reopen
the case of three young
Hindu women (Rinkel Kumari, Asha Haleema and Lata) who were forced
to convert to Islam and marry three Muslim men.
For the NCJP officials, Pakistan’s
legal system has become a source of injustice because the principle of ‘free
consent’ is applied loosely or selectively, in disregard of the
social realities and the circumstances of life.
In fact, not only in the “above mentioned cases but in many cases of so-called
conversions of minority women, the courts have overlooked ascertaining the age
of the converted and whether the marrying male (Bashir Ahmad) had taken
permission from his first wife according to Muslim Personal Law,” the two NCJP
Applying the principle of free will without looking at the evidence in a
social context in which religious freedom and gender equality are a pipe dream
can result in the miscarriage of justice.
In a “male dominated, violent and bigoted environment,” the law and the
courts cannot work on that assumption that armed and unarmed, minority and
majority, men and women enjoy the same scope of free will.
The ruling by the Supreme Court on 18 April to hand over the women to
their husbands raises grave concerns among religious minorities at a time of rising
“religious intolerance” and demographic decline.
For this reason, the NCJP wants the court to examine the case in
question more closely and look more carefully at the repercussions its ruling
might have. For the Catholic agency, the decision should have been informed by
the “legal principles of safeguarding the vulnerable.”
For Fr Masi and Peter
Jacob, “The Supreme Court or the Government can control the
damage to religious diversity by defining forced conversion according to
international standards of religious freedom which inter alia includes a right
to re-convert” to one’s former religion.
In this sense, “If a conversion comes simultaneously with marriage and
the newly converted cannot meet her parents, then it is not an exercise of free
choice of religion”.