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Living a marginalised life – By Faiza Mirza

The recent spate of forced conversions, killings and abductions for ransom of non-Muslims living in Pakistan is an open question mark to the democratic governance and establishment of the country.

“Unless we protect and strengthen the weak, we will not be able to exercise the true power of democracy,” said Nazish Brohi, an independent research professional and a human rights activist.

Inaccessibility to appropriate health facilities, education and other essentials of life have transformed many Pakistanis into ‘weaker beings’, with non-Muslim factions topping the list. It is consequential to understand that protection of the suppressed and marginalised population of Pakistan indeed, is the only way to prove our stance towards a secular country.

In a country such as Pakistan, where male section of the society is predominantly overpowering, women generally face an ‘unequal’ share of hatred and discrimination.

A case of double jeopardy

Pakistani women are more susceptible to violence and other violations of human and civil rights however non-Muslim women are subjected to more discriminated behaviour on different stages and level which increase the magnitude of their ordeal.

“A vast population of Pakistani women suffer from effects of double jeopardy as they are discriminated because of multiple reasons,” said Brohi.

“Women in general are discriminated by men of their own families because they are considered to be carrying the responsibility of safeguarding their honour. Women are then subjected to discrimination because of the fact that they profess other faiths. And then the never-ending discrimination goes on,” added Brohi.

According to a report published by National commission for Justice and Peace, 74 per cent of minority women living in Pakistan faced sexual harassment during 2010 and 2011, respectively, whereas 43 per cent complained about facing religious discrimination at workplaces, educational institutions and neighbourhoods.

Moreover the report also proved that 68.4 per cent of non-Muslim women have no political participation which according to Brohi evidently signifies the mistrust of minority women in the political system primarily because it does not offer significant assistance to them.

Forced conversions

With forced conversions and kidnappings for ransom on the rise, many non-Muslims have fled Pakistan to seek refuge abroad.

Mangla Sharma, Chairperson of Pak-Hindu Welfare association said, “forced conversions and blasphemy laws affect non-Muslims of Pakistan at every level. In fact it will not be unwise to say that legislation and laws are manipulated to favour the majority,”

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