Islamabad: Pakistan's Hindu community has criticised religious political parties for opposing the Minorities Bill, 2015, that criminalises the forced conversions. The bill was recently passed by Sindh's provincial assembly.
Pakistan Muslim League-N lawmaker Ramesh Kumar commended the Pakistan Peoples Party government in Sindh for setting the minimum age for religious conversion at 18.
"People are issued a CNIC and driving licence at 18 and are allowed to vote after they are 18. In Sindh, the age at which someone can be legally married is also 18, because before that age an individual is considered a child," Kumar was quoted by Dawn as saying.
He said that girls belonging to religious minorities were kidnapped in Sindh and forcibly married, mostly to seminary students, and that they have no choice but to adapt to their new lives.
"After this law, conversions before the age of 18 will be considered a crime," Kumar said.
Members of the civil society said that the incidence of forced conversions was increasing across the country, particularly in Sindh, and that the bill will go a long way to help the minorities in Pakistan.
"Conversion is a basic right as marriage is, but just like forced marriage, forced conversions are also a violation of human rights, and is against the teachings of Islam as well," said Krishan Sharma, Chairman of the REAT Network Pakistan (Rights of Expression, Assembly, Association and Thought Network).
Sharma said that Hindus in the region have historically converted to Islam or Christianity and that they have carried their family names after conversion as well.
All the provinces should adopt similar laws to protect minorities from forced conversions and forced marriages, he said.
The two larger religious political parties, the Jamiat-e-Islam and the Jamiat Ulema Islam-F, are opposing the new law which was recently enacted in Sindh. They claim the law is part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a liberal and secular country.