After reporting a steep increase in incidents of forced conversion from 15 in 2020 to over 60 in 2021, minority councilors voiced their concerns regarding the lack of protection extended to religious minorities by the state. This is a concerning upwards trend that demands from the government the introduction of new legislation that will actually pass through parliamentary committees, unlike the previous ones. Given how minorities are subjugated in all other realms of life, the least that can be done is to safeguard their religious freedoms and identity.

According to reports, more than 70% of all people who were forcibly converted were underage girls. Every single year, at least 1000 girls are abducted, forced to change their religious identity and are married off in Pakistan and there seem to be no measures taken in order to protect them from this criminal practice. Just recently, two Hindu girls—aged 13 and 19—along with a teenage Christian girl were kidnapped and married off to 40-year-old men after having changed their faith. This prompted a large demonstration in Hyderabad which was aimed at creating awareness about such violations that thrive under the public and state’s radar.

What makes matters worse is that there is no law that prevents this from occurring. The Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act of 2021 was prepared and introduced to the parliament only to have been rejected because ‘it would create further problems for minorities’. What these problems were and why they were more pertinent than their religious identity were questions that were never answered. From their perspective, it feels as though the government has abandoned its duties towards them and show little regard for their safety.

These are grave human rights violations—both the forced conversions and underage marriages that follow—which must be dealt with through proper laws that prohibit both. Furthermore, councils should be set up to verify, in instances of religious conversion, whether an individual is acting autonomously or under duress. Pakistan is already a dangerous home for minorities and issues like forced conversions only make it all the more hostile.