Forced Conversion and Marriage in Pakistan

Forced Conversion and Marriage

    Religious conversion disputes have a long history in South Asia. Hindu women who voluntarily or involuntarily converted to Islam or Christianity crowded colonial courts and often disrupted communal harmony. It is not a new occurrence for Muslim men to be accused of kidnapping Hindu women; claims of this kind were made, for instance, during political mobilization efforts in Bengal prior to 1947.

    Now a days, marriages between members of various communities are frequently seen as a threat to social fabric of Pakistani society, and it has been demonstrated in the past that such partnerships can lead to violent outbursts. However, conversions have also been utilised to help those at the bottom of society to experience social mobility. The act of changing one’s faith has had a significant impact on South Asia’s colonial and postcolonial history.

    The idea of a “forced marriage” suggests the forcible conversion of a Hindu woman to Islam and her subsequent marriage to a Muslim man. Marriage to a non-Muslim is not possible without first converting to Islam, and marriage to another Muslim only happens after converting to Islam.

    In Pakistan’s interior, interfaith marriages are neither religiously sanctioned by the Quran nor socially accepted, for instance, Surah Baqarah verse 221. Since a prior conversion to Islam is required for a “forced marriage,” the marriage and conversion are inextricably intertwined.

    Cases of marriages and conversion carried out by force (FCM) are unquestionably politically sensitive subjects. In bringing such scandalous incidents to the national and worldwide audience, the media plays a significant role. But the problem is, media reports also adhere to a politics of reductionism, which frequently aims at sensationalist headlines coming at the expense of nuanced realities, despite the fact that innovations in communication have helped the oppressed in Pakistan to spread their demands. As a result, the perception of FCM in Pakistan is greatly influenced by the media, for better or worse. Its treatment of these concerns must therefore be closely examined.

    Numerous FCM cases are documented by Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission (HRCP) in southern Punjab and interior Sindh. About 25 forced conversions are thought to occur in Pakistan each month, according to the HRCP and other NGOs. Women and young girls from underprivileged communities, such the Kohli, Bheel, or Meghvar, frequently become victims of such unions because they are frequently subjected to the authority of the local vaderas, Sindh’s landowning aristocracy, and other important individuals. The sheer volume of events in such a feudal setting points to a deep connection between rural structures and the kidnapping and eventual conversion of Hindu women.

    Many of these occurrences have been documented in the past, and the Pakistan Hindu Council (PEIC), a welfare group for Pakistan’s Hindus, asserts that there have been an increasing number of incidents of kidnapping and abduction of women.

    The media has contributed to victimizing the non-Muslim woman as a symbol of male-dominated identity politics in Pakistan, in addition to drawing attention to the ongoing violence against women in the country’s patriarchal society. National and international journalism have helped to minimize the pain of women as a result of a crime that was eventually committed by one male-centric community against another male-centric community by ignoring the many and intertwining forms of patriarchy. This means that many FCM cases are motivated by the idea of honour, which is why males commonly appear to be the victims of such events while the destiny of the women involved is put on the back burner.

    For instance, religious actors in Pakistan use specifically religious terminology to frame this story. The traditional Islamic side rarely acknowledges that a Hindu woman needed to convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim guy out of love. Instead, the conservative narrative usually emphasizes an attraction to religion that is followed by a wedding since free-will marriages go against societal conceptions of honour.

    Rinkle Kumari was allegedly abducted from her house on the morning of 24 February 2012. Rinkle’s father, Nand Lal, claims that his daughter was drugged and forcibly dragged out of their farmly home in Mirpur Mathelo. He accuses the family of Mian Mitho, a local Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) politician and then active Minister of the National Assembly (MNA), of being responsible for the crime and alleges that the politician is involved in human trafficking. Mitho is a well-known pir (religious authority) in the area and the head of a local dargah (shrine), the Bharchundi Sharif, renowned as a centre for conversions of non-Muslims.

    In fine, it can be stated that the coercive conversion of a Hindu woman to Islam and her marriage to a Muslim man constitute a “forced marriage” (FCM). For better or worse, the media heavily influences how FCM is covered in Pakistani media. Males frequently appear to be the victims of FCM since an increasing percentage of these cases are driven by concepts of honour. The conservative narrative places focus on a person’s attraction to religion, which is followed by marriage; the traditional Islamic side very rarely accepts that a Hindu woman had to convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim man out of love. Nonetheless, this is a serious issue that entail profound discussion and determined efforts to eliminate this curse.

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves 

–Abraham Lincoln 

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