Lawyer determined to seek justice for abducted Christian school girl in Pakistan

Published 06 February 2020  |  
(Credit: Aid to the Church in Need)
Huma Younus, the girl at the centre of the forced conversion case

The Sindh High Court in Pakistan dismissed the petition of Huma Younus, a 14-year-old school-going girl who was kidnapped, converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man in Karachi last October.

On February 3, the court overturned the petition as marriage and forced conversion of a Catholic girl is valid under Islamic law and men can marry underage girls after they have their first period.

Younus' lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf told AsiaNews that the court hearing on Monday lasted only five minutes. "They didn't allow us to see her even for a second."

According to Yousaf, Younus' parents "haven't stopped crying" as the court justified the violation of their daughter's body "since she has already had her first period."

Younus' case has been going on for several months after she was seized and taken away by three men to Dera Gazi Khan, a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan last October. Since then, the parents of the 14-year-old have not met their daughter.

Even on Monday, Younus did not appear in the court hearing. "Huma was supposed to be present but did not show up," Yousaf said. "Why didn't they show her to us? Why don't they want her to testify?"

"The judge said she didn't come because she fears for her life. But they allowed her to file an affidavit," the lawyer explained.

Younus' husband claimed that his wife is a major but the girl's parents insisted that their daughter was born on May 22, 2005.

"The judge gave police more time for medical tests to determine the girl's age. We presented right away all the papers from the government, the town hall and the church. Why didn't they ask for this before?" Yousaf said.

"As time goes by, the less we will know about her fate. Statistics tell us that if pressure is not put on the kidnapper, the minor's fate is always the same: she is forced into prostitution or ends up in the hands of human traffickers," the lawyer added.

According to Yousaf, till now, not one forcibly converted girl has been returned to her home. "Until now, no family has ever succeeded in seeking justice, because the Christians are poor and poorly educated and cannot afford to pay for legal assistance," she said.

"If we don't succeed in the High Court, we shall go further. It is unfair that Christians are not recognised in their country."

Child marriages are allowed in Pakistan, but in recent days many people are against the practice. Specially in Sindh province, Child Marriages are banned after it passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act. However, the law is still not strictly enforced in the province.

Younus' next court hearing is scheduled on March 4. If she appears in the court, she will be the first alleged victim of abduction, forced conversion and marriage to give testimony in court.

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