FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, A VICTIM OF FORCED CONVERSION MAY BE PERMITTED TO TESTIFY IN COURT
A potentially historic development may be about to happen in the case of Huma Younus, and by implication, of all Christian girls abducted and forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan. As reported to ACN last week (on 16 January) by Tabassum Yousaf, the lawyer representing this 14 year-old Catholic girl, the two judges of the High Court of Sindh province, Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah, have instructed the police officer in charge of the investigation to present Huma in court at the next hearing, which is scheduled for 3 February this year.
If this does in fact happen, it will be the first time ever that a victim of forced conversion will be permitted to give evidence in court. The case of this young girl, who was abducted on 10 October last year, has already witnessed two important firsts: it is the first case of forced conversion and forced marriage ever to come before the Pakistani High Court and it is the first time that the Child Marriage Restraint Act has been cited in court. This is a law banning marriage with minors, which was introduced in 2014 in Sindh province but has so far never been applied. “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,” Ms Yousaf explained.
Nonetheless it will not be easy to restore Huma to her parents’ home, not least on account of the corruption of the police and their connivance with her abductors. “Just this morning, in court”, her lawyer reported, “the officer in charge of the investigation, Akhtar Hussain, reported that on 9 January Huma had been brought before the court of first instance in order to sign a declaration stating that she was an adult. Neither I nor her parents had been informed, and such procedures could not take place in the absence of both parties. So it is clear that the police are helping her abductor.”
If her Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, persists in maintaining verbally that the girl is of adult age, the parents of Huma on the other hand have been able to provide the court with two documents attesting to the fact that she is still a minor – one is a testimony from her school and the other is her baptismal certificate, issued by the Catholic parish of Saint James in Karachi. Both documents state the date of Huma’s birth, namely 22 May 2005.
While awaiting the forthcoming court hearing, Huma’s parents have issued yet another heartfelt appeal, via ACN: “We appeal to the international community and to the major international media, we appeal to you to raise your voices in defence of Huma. Our daughter is just 14 years old. If you had a 14-year-old daughter who was going through all these things, what would you do? How much would you be suffering? Please think of our child as though she were your own daughter. Please help us!”