As many as 76 per cent of the respondents in a survey of Christian and Hindu women in the Punjab and Sindh say they have suffered sexual harassment at workplaces, on campuses or in their neighbourhoods.
The survey is part of Minority Women in Pakistan, compiled by National Commission for Justice and Peace Executive Director Peter Jacob and Jennifer Jag Jivan. The report was distributed at a seminar on State of Religious Minorities in Pakistan on Thursday. The NCJP organised the event in collaboration with the Pakistan Catholic Bishop’s Conference.
As many as 1,000 women in 26 districts of the two provinces were interviewed for the study. Of the respondents, 47 per cent were literate and 70 per cent belonged to urban areas.
Asked if they had suffered religious discrimination, 43 per cent of the women responded in affirmative. They said they had faced discrimination either at workplaces or at education institutes. About 27 per cent said they were denied admission to an education institute because of their religion.
The report said 14 percent of the respondents reported firsthand knowledge of abduction of a woman, eight per cent of a forced conversion and three per cent of trafficking. It added that 62 per cent of the respondents said they did not expect support of the majority community in times of religious disturbances.
Monthly income of 20 per cent of the respondents equalled the national minimum wage (Rs7,000). Another 29 per cent said they earned between Rs7,000 and Rs25,000 a month. Nearly three quarters of the respondents reported zero savings. The rest said they saved up to one per cent of their earning, 40 per cent said they were under debt obligations.
Earlier, speakers at the seminar passed a resolution demanding the government to take action against elements undermining relations between various faith communities.
They also asked the government to repeal laws promoting religious discrimination.
Punjab Aman Committee chairman Pir Ibrahim Sialvi, Commission for Interfaith Harmony Director Father Aftab James Paul, Jamaate Islami Faisalabad ameer Azeem Randhwa, Najeeb Shah and Iftikhar Ahmad of Amnesty International, GCU-F Pakistan Studies Department chairman Prof Abdul Qadir Mushtaq, NCJP executive director Peter Jacob and NCJP Director Rev Nisar Barkat also spoke on the occasion.
They demanded a review of public school curricula to ensure that it was free of hate literature.
They asked the parliament to repeal all laws that contravene international conventions on human rights. They said work should be accelerated for establishment of an independent national human rights Institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
The speakers said the government should ensure freedom of all religious groups in the country to practice their belief without threat of persecution and protection of political and economic rights of all citizens.
They said exploitation in the name of religion was condemnable.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.