Accepted Paper:

"Forced conversion" and Hindu women's agency in Sindh, Pakistan  


Juergen Schaflechner (Freie University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper deals with cases of "forced conversion" of Hindu women in Pakistan and aims to disentangle this complex phenomena.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I focus on cases of alleged forced marriage (Urd. jabrī śādī) or forced conversion (Urd. jabrān maẓhab tabdīlī; Sin. d̤āḍh je bunyād te maẓhab jī tabdīlī) and the roles of Hindu women in Pakistan's society. Often such incidents follow a similar scenario: A young Hindu woman disappears from her house or place of work for some days and reappears again as a married and newly converted Muslim. Since changing ones religion from Islam to any other faith would mean to deny the Prophet Mohammad, apostasy in Pakistan is mutatis mutandis an illegal act covered by the blasphemy laws (§295 Pakistan Penal Code). Beyond such legal issues the street power of extreme religious groups in Pakistan is a significant factor. Once a conversion has taken place and is publicized it is almost impossible for the newly converted to go back to ones former place in life - the acceptance of Islam in Pakistan is a one-way street, which, unfortunately, can be utilized to conceal criminal acts, such as kidnapping, human trafficking, and rape. Such cases carry implications not only for non-Muslim women in Pakistan, but also open the door to "patriarchal opportunism" (TOOR 2011), whereby religious sentiments are triggered as a means of controlling female sexuality and rejecting women's ability to chose a spouse. The following aims to depict the complexities behind such alleged forced conversions in today's Pakistan and seek to disentangle them from a mere religious movens.

Panel P27
Understanding poltical violence in South Asia