May 24, 2014
Vaishakha Krushna Paksha Ekadashi, Kaliyug Varsha 5116
Washington, D.C. (May 22, 2014) — An estimated 1000 Christian and Hindu girls are abducted every year in Pakistan, as reported by the Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) tenth annual human rights report, released today. Their stories, unfortunately, have largely gone unnoticed by the international community.
The case of six year-old Jumna and her ten year-old sister, Pooja, is typical of the untold plight of young Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan. The two young sisters, from the country’s rapidly shrinking Hindu community, were abducted earlier this year in the Sindh province while selling clay toys and utensils door to door to help their impoverished family. They were subsequently taken to a mosque and forcibly converted to Islam before being found by police living in the home of a Muslim man. Only six year-old Jumna has been returned to the parents. The family sobs at the mention of their other daughter, who still remains separated from them.
“Similar to the plight of the 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, girls and women from Pakistan’s religious minority communities are under constant threat of kidnapping, forced conversions to Islam, and either being married off to older Muslim men or being sold into the sex trade,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF’s Director/Senior Human Rights Fellow and author of the report. “Given the prevalence of such incidents, the U.S. Department of State must change its policy towards Pakistan and designate it as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for its ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. A CPC designation is necessary and will help expedite long-overdue reforms, while furthering our national interests in promoting secular democracy and moderate forces in Pakistan.”
Abductions and forced conversions were among several issues covered in the Foundation’s latest report, entitled Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2013. The report documented the challenges facing Hindus and other similarly situated minorities in ten countries/regions around the world within the context of domestic legal frameworks and international human rights law.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan, in particular, were censured as Egregious Violators for either engaging in or allowing rampant and systematic human rights violations to take place against their minority populations.
The report also detailed conditions in Bhutan, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, which were designated as Countries of Serious Concern, as well as those labelled as Monitored Countries, including Fiji, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad and Tobago. It further highlighted the HAF’s on the ground fact-finding missions and direct relief projects with refugee populations.
“From discriminatory constitutional injunctions and laws, to widespread restrictions on religious freedom, to violence and discrimination, the human rights and fundamental civil liberties of religious minorities are coming under increasing attack from both state and non-state actors in many of these countries,“ said Kalra. “It is imperative that the international community and the U.S. urgently address this unrestrained denial of basic human rights.”