Pakistan’s Hindu citizens sighed relief this week when the national legislature finally approved a law that regularizes their marriages. Titled “The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016”, the law provides a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus, who are among the nearly three percent minorities in the predominantly Muslim population of Pakistan.
“There was no laws to regulate the registration of Hindu marriages and ancillary matters thereto,” said Kamran Michael, the Minister of Human Rights.
Michael said the Ministry of Human Rights took the initiative to protect the rights of minorities in the country after obtaining a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Religious Affairs which was finalised after numerous consultations with the relevant ministries and representatives of the Hindu community.
The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 prohibits the marriage of minors and prescribes a minimum age of 18-years for contracting marriage in addition to protecting the customs and customary rites of the Hindu community. The bill further provides a mechanism for registration of Hindu marriages, including conditions for contracting and dissolving marriages. It also introduces the concept of judicial separation. Moreover, the legitimacy of children born out of void and voidable Hindu marriages has also been protected under the bill.
Hindu women will also now be able to get documentary proof of their marriage. Under the Clause 17, the bill allows Hindu widows the right to remarry. A Hindu widow “shall have the right to re-marry of her own will and consent after the death of her husband provided a period of six months has lapsed after the husband’s death”.
Ruling PML-N’s MP Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a Hindu minority MP, who was one of the movers of the bill, called it a laudable and a bold step for the protection of the Hindu community. “There was no Hindu marriage law in the country for 66 years — the country’s leadership and all the political parties in the parliament have done a commendable job,” Dr Vankwani said.
The MP had been pursuing the legislation for almost three years and it took the Standing Committee on Law and Justice (of the lower house of parliament) around 10 months to clear the bill.
“This is a complete bill and it relates to the lives of our fellow citizens, therefore all segments including the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) was consulted during the course of discussions, so that there are no complaints from anybody after the law is enforced,” Committee Chairman Chaudhary Mehmood Bashir Virk Mr Virk had said in September last year.
There are penalties for violating the provisions of the bill, which also enables Hindus to finally have a proof of marriage document called the shadiparat, similar to the nikahnama (marriage contract) for Muslims.
CRSS welcomes the “The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016” as a big, bold step in line with the constitution which guarantees equal rights to all its citizens under Article 25, and also promises religious freedoms and protection to minorities under article 19 and 20.