By Katie Ascough - 07 February, 2020
These laws are formulated and approved only to improve the image of the country in front of the international community, ask for development funds, and freely trade Pakistani products on the European market – lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf.
According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Huma Younus, a young Catholic abducted from her home on 10 October 2019, was set to become the first victim of forced conversion and marriage to appear in a Pakistani high court.
However, the Sindh High Court in Karachi ruled on Monday 3 February that underage girls can be legally married if they have had their first menstrual cycle, in accordance with Sharia law. For some girls, this means getting married as early as 8 years of age.
Huma’s parents believe her marriage to her abductor, Abdul Jabbar, is invalid according to the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, which bans marriage with persons under the age of 18. They even produced evidence, including a baptismal certificate and testimony from her school, to prove that Huma is indeed 14 years old and born on 22 May 2005.
Huma’s mother, Nagheena Younus, told the Catholic charity ACN that Christians are not treated as equal citizens in Pakistan: “Once again, justice has been defeated and, once again, our state has shown itself unable to treat Christians as Pakistani citizens.”
Commenting on the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, which was passed in 2014 in an attempt to stop forced marriages mainly to young Hindu and Christian girls, Huma’s lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf, told ACN: “We hope that the law could have been applied for the first time in this case. But evidently in Pakistan these laws are formulated and approved only to improve the image of the country in front of the international community, ask for development funds, and freely trade Pakistani products on the European market.”
Ms Yousaf requested that the judges have the investigating officer, Akhtar Hussain, examine Huma to determine her age. However, Ms Yousaf believes that Mr Hussain is colluding with Huma’s alleged abductor. She said: “It is clear that since [Mr] Hussain has been put in charge there is a high probability that the test results [of Huma’s age] will be falsified. But we keep hoping that the girl being underage will be proven so that she could be placed in a women’s shelter, and removed from her rapist.”
The next hearing for Huma’s case will take place on 4 March.