A landmark bill aimed at allowing Pakistan’s Hindu minority to register their marriages moved a step closer to becoming a law after it was approved by a parliamentary panel on Monday, according to media reports.
The Functional Committee on Human Rights of the Senate or upper house of Parliament unanimously approved the Hindu Marriages Bill 2016 and some lawmakers described the development as a New Year’s gift for Hindus.
The bill was approved by a committee of the National Assembly or lower house in February last year. It was passed in the lower house last September after a prolonged debate over several of its provisions. The bill will now have to be approved by the Senate.
Hindus, especially women, have faced problems in acquiring passports and other official documents in the absence of legal provisions to register marriages of the minority community.
The passage of the bill by both houses will result in the “adoption of a comprehensive and widely acceptable family law” for Pakistan’s Hindus, the Dawn reported.
It will enable Hindus to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts in cases of separation. Hindus will be eligible to get a proof of marriage document called the ‘shadiparat’, which is similar to the ‘nikahnama’ of Muslims.
The bill also allows separated Hindus to remarry. A clause 17 states a Hindu widow “shall have the right to remarry 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”. There are also penalties for violating the provisions of the bill.
After the bill was approved by the Senate committee on Monday, the room echoed with jubilation as senators and officials of different ministries started thumping their desks.
Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a prominent Hindu lawmaker, described the approval as a New Year’s gift for Pakistan’s Hindus. “Today, we are proud to be Hindu Pakistanis after the approval of the bill. Hindus will now be able to get registered their marriages and also apply for divorce under family laws,” he said.
Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, a leading lawyer, said the bill was in accordance with the essence of the Constitution. He added the bill was not in conflict with Islamic jurisprudence as Islam emphasises the protection of minorities.