A Pakistani Christian teenager who was kidnapped and forced into an Islamic marriage last year is now pregnant and confined to one room by her abuser, an attorney representing her family has said.
Tabassum Yousaf, a lawyer representing the parents of 15-year-old Huma Younus, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need International that the teenager informed her parents by phone that she is pregnant after being repeatedly raped by the man who abducted her.
“Asked by her father if she could leave her abductor’s house and return to her parents' home, she told him that she is not allowed to leave the house and that her life has become still more difficult,” Yousaf explained. “[S]he is now imprisoned within the walls of one room.”
Younus was taken from her home on Oct. 10, 2019, at the age of 14, and later forcibly married to a radical Muslim man named Abdul Jabbar. She was also forced to “convert” to Islam.
Younus’ parents have declared the marriage between their daughter and her captor to be invalid because she's not of legal age to consent to the marriage (which is 18) under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act.
According to Yousaf, Jabbar’s brother, Mukhtiar, is a member of the Pakistani security forces’ Rangers branch and has threatened to kill the teenager’s parents if they intervene.
“This man has contacted Huma’s parents via video telephone calls and threatened them directly, showing them his weapons and telling them he would kill them if ever they should come looking for their daughter,” Yousaf said. “This same man, Mukhtiar, has added in audio messages that even if all the Christians should band together to bring Huma back, he would kill both her parents and anyone who tried to help them.”
According to the pontifical foundation, the family’s case had previously been closed by the Third Judicial Magistrate for Karachi East on the grounds of a lack of proof even though the family submitted a sworn statement from Huma’s school and a baptism certificate from St. James Church in Karachi showing the child’s date of birth was in May 2005.
The family appealed the decision. Upon appeal, the magistrates were said to have contacted Pakistan’s official public records authority to obtain the girl’s birth certificate.
The family’s appeal was set to be heard before the Sindh High Court last Monday. However, the court is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the charity, the court is unlikely to reopen until August.
Yousaf states that the lawyer representing Jabbar is using legal maneuvers in an attempt to further delay the case. Once Younus turns 18, Yousaf said that it's highly likely that the case will be halted indefinitely.
Since Pakistan is a majority Muslim country, Yousaf stressed that there is a tendency for long delays for court cases involving religious minorities.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, hence every delay in reaching judgement on the defense of the rights of religious minorities represents a denial of these rights,” Yousaf said. “The court has delayed and continues to delay justice on behalf of Huma, solely because she is an underage Christian girl.”
Yousaf contends that if Younus was a Muslim girl, authorities would act “immediately.”
“As a lawyer, I am certain that the president of the Pakistani Supreme Court could grant justice to the parents of the girl and to Huma herself,” Yousaf added. “However, at every other lower level of the judicial system justice for the minorities will not be possible.”
Yousaf stressed that while estimates vary, there are likely 2,000 cases per year of underage girls in Pakistan who've been abducted in similar circumstances as Younus. She warned that many of those cases go unreported.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that several independent institutions “recognize that an estimated 1,000 young women are forcibly converted to Islam each year,” many of whom are “kidnapped, forcibly married, and subjected to rape.”
Open Doors USA, a leading international Christian persecution watchdog organization, ranks Pakistan as the fifth-worst country in the world for Christian persecution.
The U.S. State Department also lists Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” that has engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”
“Christians report that their girls are often abducted, raped, forced to marry their abductor, and converted by force,” an Open Doors USA dossier on Pakistan reads. “The authorities do not take any action; on the contrary, usually they side with the Muslim families abducting the girls. Consequently, parents of such victimized women and girls begin to feel it is pointless to take legal action. Even when a case comes to the courts, the girls are forced to testify that they converted voluntarily.”