An Intersectional Perspective on Blasphemy Laws: A Case Study of Pakistan

Anne Jenichen, Tusharika Deka

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperArticle


Blasphemy laws exist in many states, yet their enforcement significantly limits the rights of citizens in only a few of these nations. Pakistan probably is the most extreme case, with blasphemy punishable by death and the law often being used to target religious minorities (Haq 2019). This religious discrimination has put the blasphemy laws high on the agenda of Western governments and their international religious freedom policies (e.g., Bettiza 2019; Wolff 2021). However, in the context of our research on the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and finally acquitted in 2018, we noticed that both international and local debates about blasphemy charges often focus exclusively on their religious dimension. On the one hand, that is not surprising given that blasphemy refers to sacrilegious speech about religion. On the other hand, we argue, it neglects other aspects of the discrimination that religious minorities and those accused of blasphemy face.

To address this gap in both research and practice, we highlight some of the literature and anecdotal evidence that demonstrate existing intersections between religion, socioeconomic status, and gender in the case of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan. We draw on an intersectional perspective to make these links visible. We first define the concept of intersectionality, and then provide some background information on the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, before exploring how socioeconomic status and gender intersect with religion in blasphemy charges in Pakistan. For a more systematic analysis, however, more research is needed, which we seek to encourage with this essay.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Specialist publicationE-International Relations
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2023

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