Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Women from
Pakistan's minority communities have a lower level of education but a higher
level of infant mortality. They suffer discrimination in the workplace and are the
victims of constant attempts at forced conversion or false charges of
blasphemy, this according to a recent report titled 'Life on the margins' on
the status of minority women released by the National Commission for Justice
and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church. About a thousand Christian and Hindu
women took part in the survey. They are from 8 districts in the Punjab and 18 in
Sindh Province, which together represent 95 per cent of the country's religious
minorities. More than 90 per cent of Pakistanis are Muslim, predominantly
One factor in discrimination is
forced conversion. One non-Muslim woman in two experiences pressures to convert
to Islam, which often come with violence and coercion. Looming in the
background is the blasphemy law, seen by many as the most serious obstacle to
social and cultural equality.
Another factor is higher than
average infant mortality among minorities with 314 infant deaths out of 3,050 live
births for a rate of 10.30 per cent compared to the national average of 8.7 per
Discrimination also affects education.
The report found that only 47 per cent of the minority women interviewed have a
formal education, which is far lower than the national average of 57 per cent
and far behind the urban literacy rate of women of 65 per cent.
The workplace is another area of
discrimination. Some 43 per cent of Hindu and Christian women said that they
faced discrimination, stress and psychological pressure where they worked.
On International Women's Day,
which is celebrated today, 8 March, NCJP activists lament the fact that, in the
third millennium, discrimination based on race and religion remains a shameful
blot on Pakistan.
One figure stands out. According
to the report, 62 per cent of respondents believe that, in the wake of
religious disturbances like those in Shatinagar, Gojra, Korian and Sialkot, the
majority community would not stand with them.
NCJP executive director Peter
Jacob said that a copy of the report would be sent to the provincial
governments in Sindh and Punjab as well as the Ministry of Human Rights and
It will also be posted on the
NCJP's own website at www.ncjppk.org