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Pakistan: Women, religious minorities continue to face persecution, says rights group

News Agencies | Updated on: 17 January 2022, 8:46 IST

Women, religious minorities, and transgender people in Pakistan continue to face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account, according to a US-based rights group.

In its World Report 2022 released last week, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed a bleak picture of civil liberties in Pakistan.

According to the report, the Pakistani government continues to do little to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for torture and other serious abuses.

The HRW report said that attacks by Islamist militants, notably the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, targeting law enforcement officials and religious minorities killed dozens of people.

A climate of fear impedes media coverage of abuses by both government security forces and militant groups. Journalists who face threats and attacks have increasingly resorted to self-censorship, HRW said.

"Media outlets have come under pressure from authorities not to criticize government institutions or the judiciary. In several cases in 2021, government regulatory agencies blocked cable operators and television channels that had aired critical programs," the report said.

It further said members of the Ahmadiyya religious community continue to be a major target for prosecutions under blasphemy laws as well as specific anti-Ahmadi laws. Militant groups and the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) accuse Ahmadis of "posing as Muslims." The Pakistan penal code also treats "posing as Muslims" as a criminal offense.

According to a Pakistani human rights organization, the Centre for Social Justice, at least 1,855 people were charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and February 2021.

Violence against women and girls--including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage--is endemic throughout Pakistan. Human rights defenders estimate that roughly 1,000 women are killed in so-called honour killings every year.

Furthermore, child marriage remains a serious problem in Pakistan, with 18 percent of girls marrying before age 18, and 4 percent marrying before 15. Women from religious minority communities remain particularly vulnerable to forced marriage.

The government has done little to stop such marriages, according to HRW.


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First published: 17 January 2022, 8:46 IST