Pakistan: Forced Marriage

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 30th November 2020.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of the level of kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage of Christian and Hindu girls to their older male abductors in Pakistan on the Government’s allocation of Official Development Assistance to that country; and whether his Department has had discussions with the Government of Pakistan on that matter.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We are concerned about women's and girls' rights in Pakistan and ongoing reports of forced marriage and forced conversion of Hindu, Christian and Sikh women and girls. The UK Government strongly condemns the forced marriage and forced conversion of women and girls from religious minorities in Pakistan. We regularly raise our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief, women and girls' rights and gender equality with the Government of Pakistan at a senior level. On 19 October, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for South Asia and Minister responsible for Human Rights, raised our concerns about child, early and forced marriage and forced conversion of women and girls, including those of religious minorities, with Pakistan's Minister for Human Rights, Dr Shireen Mazari. In addition, Lord Ahmad raised our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief with Dr Mazari on 16 November.

Pakistan is one of the UK's top development priorities and currently the second largest bilateral aid programme with a total of £257.369 million disbursed in 2019-20. This includes support for policy reform at federal and provincial levels to strengthen child protection laws to prevent child marriage. We are also supporting the creation of child courts which will ensure that issues affecting children, including child marriage, are more effectively dealt with in the legal system. Our aid relationship with any government is based on an assessment of commitment to our Partnership Principles, including human rights. While we will continue to raise human rights as a concern in our dialogue with the Government of Pakistan, including at our annual Bilateral Assistance Talks, it would not be fair for the poorest to suffer from a withdrawal or reduction of UK support.

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