Minorities seek steps to check ‘forced conversion, marriages’
LARKANA: Speakers at a seminar on ‘Rights of minority’ called for legislation and other measure on an urgent basis to curb kidnapping, forced conversion and rape of women belonging to religious minorities. They also highlighted other major issues being faced by them for long but have remained unresolved so far.
The seminar was organised by the Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP) in collaboration with the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) at a local hotel on Wednesday. It was attended by Larkana High Court Bar Associatuion general secretary Advocate Akeel Ahmed Bhutto, Larkana Hindu Panchayat Committee chairperson Advocate Kalpana Devi, human rights activist Iqbal Detho, psychiatrist Dr Inayat Magsi and a large number of people from different walks of life.
Mr Detho observed that minority communities in the country had been stigmatised as “untouchables”. He quoted Article 36 of the Constitution which says: “The state shall safeguard the legitimate rights of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services,” and said that the Article 25 also guaranteed equality but regrettably minorities in the country were not being treated as equal citizens. He said that the lower social status of minority communities translated into their poor representation in the political system which hindered their access to governance and system while their legislative needs also remained unmet.
Mr Detho was also disprove of the procedure for religious minorities’ representation in the elected houses arguing that for the reserved seats of minorities in the national and provincial assemblies, representatives were nominated by political parties instead of being elected by their respective community. He stressed the need for implementing Supreme Court verdict of June 2014 that clearly outlined safeguards for minorities’ rights.
Advocate Kalpana Devi said that religious minorities in Pakistan were facing numerous issues with “forced conversion” being the most serious among them. She claimed that five per cent quota for minorities was not being implemented and the political parties did not give due space to this segment in the political formations. As such, she added, minorities remained politically isolated.
She pinpointed attacks on minorities’ places of worship, killing and kidnapping of their members and rape and forced marriages with their female members were the other major issues which were cause of great concern for society as well as government. She demanded urgent legislation to resolve these issues and provide relief to minorities.
Advocate Bhutto noted that incidents of kidnapping and forced conversion of Hindu and Christian girls were on the rise in Sindh. He urged the government to take practical measures to contain the trend in order to curb violation of minorities’ constitutional rights.
Dr Inayat Magsi was of the view that minorities were harassed because they were considered weaker segment of society.
Advocate Aslam Jatoi, Afzal Shaikh, Maqbool Mashori, Advocate Sattar Hulio and Umer Buriro also spoke.