03/08/2007, 00.00
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Pakistani women increasingly victims of forced conversions and violence

by Qaiser Felix
The annual report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan shows that the number of incidents of discrimination and violence against women is increasing, especially against members of religious minorities.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – As in previous years, celebrations of International Women’s Day in Pakistan is at odds with a local reality characterised by women’s lack of power, growing socio–economic difficulties and violence, problems that afflict millions of Pakistani women, this according to the annual report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The report noted that last year forced conversions of minority women, rape and arranged marriages for minors were on the increase, destroying the lives of thousands of young women and teenagers.

Specifically, the HRCP reported 1,821 cases of violent crimes against women in 2006, including murder, rape, mutilation, burning and other offences. In 2005 at least 1,726 women suffered similar violence.

Despite the situation, several events were prepared to celebrate the day in favour of women: rallies, special ceremonies and debates with both men and women speakers.

The Catholic Church’s National commission for Justice and Peace organised different activities, meetings and conferences for March 8 to promote the status of women in various cities like Lahore, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

Joseph Francis, secretary general of the Pakistan Christian National Party, told AsiaNews that his party was holding a seminar on Women’s day in which the main issue was forced conversion of Christian women and girls. After the Muhammad caricature controversy, many Christian girls were forced to convert to Islam, mainly in rural areas.

Forced conversion is especially true for Christian women and girls working in Muslim households or small factories, where they are abducted, raped and then forced to convert to Islam.

“According to our research, Muslims do this to Christian girls in order to disgrace the US,” he said. “In their minds Christianity is connected to that nation.”

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