Pakistan Parliament passes landmark bill on Hindu marriage
LONDON: Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament has passed a landmark bill that will address the Hindu minority’s concerns over the registration of marriages, which is required for measures aimed at protecting women’s rights.
The bill will address other key issues of the Hindu community, including matters related to divorce and forced conversions. Hindu leaders welcomed the bill but Amarnath Motumal of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it only addresses “half of the issues” faced by the community.
The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 was passed by the National Assembly on Monday after much delay and inaction. Much of the debate centred round whether the bill addresses the issues raised by the minority.
Human rights and religious minorities minister Kamran Michael, who presented the bill in the House, told the media it was a historic day for him. “Credit goes to (both the) opposition and ruling parties, which are on the same page on the draft (bill),” he said.
Experts said the passage of bill removed a hurdle on the way to putting in place measures to protect women’s rights. Activists have said Hindu women have been disproportionately targeted for abduction and forced conversions because their marriages were never officially recognised and, therefore, not provable in court.
On August 17, the National Assembly’s standing committee on law and justice tabled its report on the bill, which had been pending with the panel since March last year.
The draft law was moved by two minority lawmakers – Ramesh Lal of the Pakistan People’s Party and Asiya Nasir of the Jamiat Ulema-eIslam-Fazal. The bill was later supported by the ruling PML-N party. The absence of a legal mechanism for registering marriages and handling matters such as divorce also created problems for Hindus in getting travel and identity documents.
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