International advocacy vital for victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
In May 2020 ICC published a report on Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The report, titled "The Voiceless Victims of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws", presents the stories of twenty-two Christians incarcerated due to their faith and suggests proactive measures to be taken on their behalf.
Pakistan is one of three countries where blasphemy is punishable by death. These laws are often abused to settle personal scores and incite religious hatred. There is widespread religious intolerance and bias in the country, so members of Pakistan’s religious minority communities are constantly targeted and punished under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Pakistan’s Penal Code includes four sections: 295, 295-A, 295-B, and 295-C, that makeup Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The sections include:
- Section 295: Injuring or defiling places of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class. Punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment, or fine, or both
- Section 295-A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or fine, or both
- Section 295-B: Defiling, etc., of the Quran. Punishable by imprisonment for life
- Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks—spoken, written, direct or indirect, etc.—that defile the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Mandatory death sentence and fine
Unfortunately, under these sections, Pakistani authorities are motivated to punish individuals found guilty of offending others’ religious sentiments. However, in the majority of cases, these are false accusations, and the laws are abused by individuals motivated by prejudice.