By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, (AA): Lawmakers in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province have passed a bill outlawing forced religious conversions, declaring them a punishable crime.
Parties across the board passed the bill which does not allow anyone under 18 to change their religion and has been welcomed by minorities in the country, especially the small Hindu community.
Anyone found involved in forced conversions could be jailed for five years while any adults who convert will be given 21 days to consider their decision.
The bill followed increasing complaints from the Hindu community, who mostly reside in Sindh province, alleging that hundreds of girls have recently been forced to convert to Islam and married to Muslim youth in several districts.
Nund Kumar Goklani, a Hindu assembly member and the bill’s proponent proposer, told reporters the bill was to ensure conversions happen for purely religious purposes rather than “out of fashion or under force.”
Hindus are the second largest minority in Muslim-majority Pakistan, making up 2 percent of the country’s total 200 million population.
[Photo: Pakistan Map showing Sindhin Province. Tubs/ GNU Free Documentation License]