Huma Younus was abducted last October and forced to marry her kidnapper. “Today it happened to Huma, tomorrow it can happen to any other girl,” said the victim’s lawyer. Meanwhile, her parents are being threatened with blasphemy accusations if they continue their lawsuit.
Karachi (AsiaNews) – Tabassum Yousaf, a lawyer for a 14-year-old Christian girl who was abducted, and forcibly converted and married to her kidnapper, is calling on Catholics around the world “to help us bring Huma Younus home to her grief-stricken parents."
The girl was kidnapped in October 2019. Since then, "we have not heard anything from her. Her situation is heart-wrenching. The longer she remains in the hands of her kidnappers, the more she will suffer sexual and mental abuse.”
Yesterday, Yousaf, a Christian, held a press conference in Karachi together with several human rights organisations. Tomorrow, “we will present the case at the hearing before the High Court,” she explained.
“We ask political leaders from all over the world, Pope Francis, the Church, [human rights] organizations to support our struggle,” she said. “Today it happened to Huma, tomorrow it can happen to any other girl. Meanwhile, kidnappings and violence continue. Christians have a duty to speak out.”
The 14-year-old's parents “are desperate,” said the lawyer. “After filing a complaint with the police, they began receiving intimidatory messages, threatening blasphemy accusations if they continued with the lawsuit. Some messages sent by extremists in Islamic groups told the parents to let their daughter go with the kidnapper.”
A bill banning child marriage is still pending in parliament, Yousaf said, "but has not yet been approved. If the girls are members of minority groups, especially Hindus or Christians, it is even harder to protect and save them from criminals since conversion is not considered a crime. For our part, we insist on the fact that abducting a young woman against her will is a crime."
From a legal point of view, Yousaf also noted some discrepancies. “We were not allowed to meet Huma because she is a minor and is currently in her husband’s custody. However, the court allowed her to file an affidavit in which she declares that she got married of her own free will. Yet an affidavit cannot be filed without the identity card number that is issued at the age of 18. The statement Huma signed, as the filed documents show, does not present that code.”
“Why is the law different when it comes to minorities? The Pakistan Constitution states that law is the same for everyone,” Yousaf said. “It will take time before something changes in the country.”
To that end, “We must focus on education: first of all, in our community, so that it has the tools to deal with similar cases and not be victimised, and secondly in society, to change the mindset so that people understand that forced conversion is a crime.”
Huma’s mother Nagina yesterday spoke at the press conference. “I want to ask government leaders one thing: if they kidnapped your daughter, would you remain silent as you do now with mine? Three months have passed and we have no news. I want justice done. My daughter is innocent and doesn't know what to do.”
Z. U. Mujahid, a lawyer with the Supreme Court present at the meeting, expressed gratitude to “all the media and people who are supporting the case. It is not just about minorities: the whole nation faces the problem of injustice because we are all brothers and sisters.”
In fact, whilst “Minorities are not protected, the people as a whole is also not protected. The imam who celebrated the wedding and the witnesses must be punished if one of the spouses is a minor.”
(Shafique Khokhar contributed to this article)