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Pakistani Religious Minorities Protest Forced Conversion Of Girls

Pakistani Activists Rally To Protest Forced Conversion Of Girls From Religious Minorities
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Dozens of Pakistani religious minority activists rallied in Islamabad on August 11 against the forced conversion of girls, often as a precursor to marriage.

The activists marched from the National Press Club toward the parliament and held banners and chanted slogans seeking government action to stop such conversions to Pakistan's official religion, Islam.

The protest was organized by the Minorities' Alliance Pakistan, a political party established in 2002.

Some of the demonstrators held images of Shahbaz Bhatti, the party's founder, who served as minority affairs minister from 2008 until his assassination in 2011.

Bhatti was shot dead in Islamabad after campaigning against Pakistan's widely criticized blasphemy laws.

Nearly 97 percent of Pakistan's population of around 238 million people are Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim, but there are small Hindu and Christian communities.

Critics cite the routine targeting of young women from Pakistan’s Hindu minority for simultaneous conversion to Islam and marriage to Muslim men -- often under alleged coercion.

No Going Back: Pakistani Hindus 'Forced' To Convert To Islam
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Some have dubbed the most notorious hubs for such processes "conversion factories."

The protest against the forcible conversion follows a mob attack on a Hindu temple in the province of Punjab after an 8-year-old Hindu boy was charged under Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws, which are often abused and frequently used to target minorities like Hindus and Christians.