According to the Pakistan national census of 1998, Scheduled Castes and Dalits number 330,000 and reside primarily in five districts of Southern Punjab bordering India.
Dalit women of Pakistan fall victim to sexual abuse, abduction and forced religious conversion. Dalit women tell of kidnappings and abductions leading to forced conversion and marriage into Muslim families. The stories of the women’s families reveal that religious conversion is a barrier to the return of women to their families and action by police personnel.
The Punjab region in particular is home to a large population of Christians, most of which have converted from Hinduism to escape caste discrimination. However, they have not escaped their social status as Dalits, and Dalit Christian women are subjected to a combination of both gender and religious discrimination, targeted for being women and for being non-Muslim.
As a religious minority, Dalit Christian women experience violations such as rape and torture as a form of punitive measure and prosecution. Furthermore, law enforcement personnel are criticized for abusing religious minorities in custody.
In the Sindh province about 1,8 million people live in bonded labour, a majority of which are Dalits originally from India. A combined effect of low education levels, exclusion from family decision making processes and a lack of property rights make dalit women vulnerable to this labour exploitation and bondage. Rape of female bonded labourers is widespread and violent, and there is little legal recourse.