Women activists highlight persecution of Christians in Pak at UN

Geneva [Switzerland], Mar 13: Christian women activists on Monday raised the issue of persecution of minority community by the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and the misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan during the 37th session of human rights council session in Geneva. Speaking at a side event at UN, Shazia Khokhar, a Christian woman activist from Pakistan, who now lives in Switzerland, said there is only 2 to 3 percent of the minority in Pakistan, who live in continuous danger of being persecuted by the blasphemy law. She added, "The name, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a complete official name of a country where religious minorities are systematically persecuted. The Islamic Republic is a name given to several states that are officially ruled by Islamic law. In Pakistan, once an individual is accused of blasphemy, he is presumed guilty and the law fails to safeguard against people willing to use violence. Blasphemy law also creates an atmosphere of religious intolerance and has contributed to the institutionalisation of discrimination against religious minorities". The women activists highlighted many cases including Pakistan's most high profile blasphemy case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who found guilty of committing blasphemy while working in the fields in 2009 and was sentenced to death. In 2014, her death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. Shazia said, "As a poor Christian, from a low caste, Aasia Bibi was among the most vulnerable to get accused and the legal system which in theory should be designed to protect the innocent, failed to protect her in any way." Talking about the solution to complex problems faced by minorities in Pakistan, she said, "More voice we raise, the louder we will be because being only two percent in number, we cannot match 97 percent of the community. Now is the time we should act on that strategy of thinking locally but acting globally. FIR should not be registered on immediate grounds or without investigation. The most important of all is to provide protective custody to the victim and his family". Adding more to the solution, Shazia said, United Nations committees should raise the issues frequently when Pakistan submits its periodic reports to its committee". Another Christian woman activist from Pakistan, Salma Bhatti, raised the issue of kidnapping, conversation and forced marriages of young women from the minority community. She said, "There are many young Christian girls in Pakistan who are being kidnapped and forcibly married. Later, they are no whereabouts of these women."
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