Karachi, Nov 24: Amidst reports of religious conversions coming from various parts of Sindh province, the Sindh Assembly in Pakistan on Thursday passed a bill against forced religious conversions, according to a report published in Dawn newspaper.
The bill recommends five-year punishment for those involved in conversion acts while those facilitating conversion will be subject to three-year imprisonment.
The Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015, was proposed by the PML-F’s Nand Kumar Goklani.
Under the newly passed bill, forcibly converting a minor is also made a punishable offence. Adults will be given 21 days to consider their decision to convert.
The South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) released a report in collaboration with the Aurat Foundation in July 2015 stating that at least 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year.
The report defined a forced conversion as when a person or persons use any sort of pressure, force, duress or threat, whether physical, emotional or psychological, to make another person adopt another religion.
Goklani, speaking to Dawn.com, said the bill was first introduced in the assembly in Dec 2015. “I asked the assembly to take it up today or I would protest,” he said.
“There is a need for this bill because forced conversions happen here,” he said.
Goklani recalled the 2014 case of 12-year-old girl Anjali Kumari Meghwar, and said the bill prevents the forced conversion of minors, and even puts newly-converted adults under observation for a period of 21 days “to ensure they are converting for religious purposes, not out of fashion or under force.”
“The court will decide after that,” he said, “And if there are any irregularities, the person doing it will get five years in jail, and their facilitator will get a three-year sentence.”
The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs earlier in June termed forced conversions “illegal” and against the principles of Islam.
Senator Gian Chand earlier said that police do not take action in cases of forced conversion “fearing the reaction of the Muslim community.”
Cases of forced conversions have been reported from Jacobabad, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Kashmore, Kandhkot, Ghotki, Larkana and Sukkur.