On October 10th, 2019, a 14-year-old Christian girl named Huma Younus was kidnapped from her family's home in Zia Colony, Karachi. A few days later, her family received official conversion papers and a certificate of marriage to her kidnapper, Abdul Jabbar.
The parents took the matter to court. However, Huma, who had been taken 600 kilometres away, was not in attendance at the hearing on November 11th. The family states that the forced marital union contravened the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Law which forbids marriage to any child under the age of 18 without permission from their guardian.
In a disturbing decision on February 3rd, the Sindh High Court took only five minutes to rule that men are permitted to marry underaged girls who have commenced menstruation. This ruling was based on an interpretation of Sharia law, despite the country's contradicting civil law. Huma's family was also prohibited from seeing their daughter because police claimed her life could be at risk if she was forced to attend court.
The family has appealed to the state Supreme Court and a hearing is scheduled for March 4th. The investigating officer has been ordered to examine Huma to determine her age. However, the family's lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf, believes the results are likely to be falsified. The family is greatly concerned for Huma's safety and well-being. Their lawyer emphasizes the importance of the court's urgent intervention: "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."
Thankfully, there are occasions when girls in similar situations are recovered. Sneha, another 14-year-old girl, had also been kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and then married to her kidnapper. On January 14th, while returning home from school, Sneha was forced into a vehicle. After being taken to an unknown location, she was tortured and raped multiple times. Thankfully, she was recovered five days later and returned to her family. With the help of human rights advocates, the family is pursuing legal action against the kidnappers but have been forced into hiding for their safety.
For more information on the difficulties facing Pakistan's Christians, as well as reports on other cases of persecution, visit our country report.
Please intercede for Huma, Sneha and the many other girls in Pakistan who have been forced into marriage or prostitution. Ask God to mightily intervene in each situation, rescuing these precious young lives from further assault on their dignity and well-being. May He also provide them needed healing -- spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Pray that Huma's family will be successful in their upcoming appeal, so that their daughter can safely return home. Implore that the courts will enforce the country's existing civil laws and not bow to the pressure of militants, and that laws banning forced marriage in general will be implemented as a safeguard to protect others from possible victimization.