5th September 2021
“Fourteen years of my life have passed without note. But today I have decided that I must take a stand for my daughters. I want justice,” pleads Hameeda* a middle-aged mother of two minor girls, 12-year-old Aasiya* and eight-year-old Maria*.
They are residents of Lahore’s densely populated Mughalpura, in the home of Hameeda’s second husband. All Hameeda wanted was to give their girls a happy and stable life. But instead what they faced is the complete opposite. What is meant to be the safest place ceased to be so, when the elder daughter of the two began facing continuous sexual harassment by her father’s own grandson from his first marriage.
A Place of Comfort Becomes A Cage of Abuse
For months, Asiya has been sexually harassed in her own home by her father’s grandson. Each time, the accused Saif managed to get away with it only because of the support he has been given by his grandfather – Hameeda’s husband – Aashiq Masih Gill.
Under pressure from Aashiq, Hameeda and her daughters continued to bear the fear and humiliation in silence, until one day when Saif attempted to rape Aasiya.
“I had hurt my shoulder that day, so I was lying down. Aasiya decided to take over the household chores,” narrates Hameeda. “After they did the laundry, both sisters went to hang the clothes to dry on the roof.”
In the middle, Maria went downstairs for a bathroom break, leaving Aasiya alone upstairs. Saif, who was silently watching them from a storage-room on the roof, called out to the 12-year-old child.
“As soon as she went over, he grabbed her by the arm and forced down her shalwar,” says the distraught mother. Around that time, Maria returned and saw Saif, who was half-naked, pulling Aasiya’s underwear down to her ankles while the 12-year-old was desperately trying to stop him.
“My little one told me about the whole thing,” says Hameeda. “Aasiya did not say a word to me. Instead, she went to her brother and complained to him that when she told their father, he did not believe a word.”
Even in the past, Aasiya had told her father of his nephew harassing her, and each time he would order her to keep quiet. With the latest transgression, she was met with the same response.
When Hameeda got wind of the incident from Maria, she was shocked.
“For an entire week I felt like I was sleep-walking, like I wasn’t in my senses,” she said.
Forced into Silence
She alleges that her husband tried to put a lid on everything while Hameeda, who had only wanted to keep her home and her family intact, ended up assenting. But the situation changed when Aashiq’s son-in-law threatened Hameeda and her daughters over the phone.
“He told me that if I pursue this case, I would end up leaving the area as a dead body,” she said.
Finally able to muster the courage, Hameeda approached the Mughalpura police station to lodge a first information report (FIR). But rather than having her complaint registered, she claimed that she was told by the SHO to resolve the issue as a “family matter.”
“They are in cahoots with my husband, Aashiq,” she claimed. “It was not until I went to the DIG, where my problem was heard by an SP that my complaint was lodged. But when the FIR was registered, the Mughalpura Police transferred my case to the Mozang Police, who keep summoning me day after day only to inconvenience and humiliate me.”
Won’t Back Down
Hameeda knows they want the case to be withdrawn.
“They are pressuring me into a deal, to reconcile with my husband and his grandchild,” she lamented. “All I want is justice.”
According to the investigating officer, the accused have managed to obtain pre-arrest bail in the case. Meanwhile, Hameeda has approached the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS), a pro bono law firm that extends free legal aid to women, children and minorities, to have their bail cancelled, obtain alimony as well as to push for legal action against them.
“If they could do this to my daughter, they can do this to anyone’s daughter,” says Hameeda. “If he is not punished now, then he will continue to roam free and do as he pleases.”
The names of the people have been changed to give them privacy*