NCRC launches guidance note on forced conversions
Islamabad: The National Commission for the Rights of the Child (NCRC) on Monday launched its first fundamental policy brief on forced conversions – signaling the Commission’s and government’s commitment to ensuring children’s rights, including the protection of minors from minority and marginalized groups.
“NCRC Guidance Note on Forced Conversions with Recommendations After Analysis of Arzoo Case” addresses shortcomings of existing laws. The brief also offers recommendations for specific interventions by various actors to curb incidents of forced conversions in light of the rights of minors and religious minorities.
The Commission recommended stronger policy frameworks and increased access to law and justice in line with international commitments and the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. To achieve this, the NCRC called on media personnel, government and all relevant stakeholders to recommit to serve and ensure basic human dignity extending to all minorities and all children in Pakistan.
Highlighting the importance of this research, NCRC President Afshan Tehseen Bajwa said: “The purpose of this policy brief on forced conversion is not only to draw attention to the magnitude of the problem, but also to emphasize that the State, competent authorities, federal authorities and provincial governments have the responsibility to protect against organizations and individuals who attempt to coerce/exploit vulnerable minors. In addition, the state also has a responsibility to provide impartial and full access to law and judicial resources in cases of abduction and forced conversions. It is important to note that Pakistan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 14(1) of which states that state parties shall respect children’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “the right to freedom of religion includes the right to change one’s religion and no one may be compelled to change one’s religion”. Pakistan has also signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), article 16 of which confirms the right of every woman to contract marriage “only with his free and full consent”.
Sindh NCRC member Iqbal Detho pointed out that the issue of forced conversions is faced by all religious minorities in Pakistan. He highlighted Pakistan’s many positive obligations to ensure that the rights enshrined in the Covenant are protected by the state. He highlighted issues related to lack of access to justice and presented the Commission’s recommendations – including the role of government and legislative bodies; collaboration with law enforcement and judicial bodies; mandates of national and provincial human rights institutes; and, partnership with civil society and the media for awareness raising. He said the inclusion of minorities also involves religious freedom so that marginalized groups are not forced to give up their unique identities and beliefs. The realization of minority rights is directly linked to the rights of the child and the protection of children where religious minority minors are safe. Ensuring minority protection and preserving minority identity creates a tolerant social and judicial environment, governance and frameworks, leading to a just society where human rights, children’s rights and minority rights are protected.
the Executive Director of Parliamentary Human Rights Committees, Shafique Chaudhry; Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Lal Chand Malhi and National Human Rights Commission (NCHR) Minority Member Manzoor Masih reiterated the need to engage policy makers and parliamentarians to create momentum on this issue. They were of the view that it is imperative to build a critical mass of parliamentarians engaged in issues of freedom of religion and belief, to inform them of ongoing policy research and to build their capacity to ensure effective protection of the rights of minorities and children through legislative and political influence. .
The executive director of parliamentary human rights committees, Shafique Chaudhry, pointed out that the majority of cases of forced conversion concern underage girls from religious minorities, which inextricably links the issue to human rights and protection. ‘child. Furthermore, the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, Lal Chand Malhi, pointed to the lack of relevant legislation and the collection of data on forced conversions.
The Deputy Representative of Unicef Pakistan, Dr. Inoussa Kabore, acknowledged the importance of having a National Institute for Human Rights such as the NCRC for safeguarding human rights. He said, “UNICEF is working with the Government of Pakistan and the NCRC to implement child protection legislative frameworks in various provinces of Pakistan. This mechanism coordinates a government response to protect children from abuse – sexual, physical, emotional – and neglect and forced conversions. UNICEF will continue to support the government for implementation, service delivery and recommendations.
Echoing similar sentiments, Ahmed Quraishi, journalist and activist, said: “Forced conversions violate multiple Pakistani laws and international conventions, from children’s rights to human rights, human dignity and freedom of belief. In order to strengthen human rights, governments, judicial and legal bodies and civil society should foster synergies to guarantee freedom of religion or belief.