Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pakistan Hindu Marriage Bill Approved

Finally Hindu wives and husbands can call their husbands and wives legally married and their sons and daughters can call their parents Ma and Baba.

Statesman February 14, 2016
Hindu marriage bill creates row in Pakistan
| Islamabad | 14 February, 2016

Representational Image (Getty Images)

A clause in the draft Hindu marriage bill, which states that a marriage will be annulled if either spouse converts to another religion, has triggered vehement contest between its opponents and supporters in Pakistan.
Seeking an end to the controversy, Senator Nasreen Jalil, chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, has called a meeting of the panel to discuss the matter, Dawn online reported.

The draft legislation has been passed by the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

Senator Jalil said: "We would like to discuss the matter. If there is a consensus, the committee will forward its recommendations to the speaker of the National Assembly to get the clause deleted."
At its meeting on February 8, the National Assembly Standing Committee witnessed serious opposition from Mohammad Khan Sheerani, the Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), to the clause.

But Shugufta Jumani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Ali Mohammad of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf clearly said if any of the spouses embraced Islam, the marriage should be terminated.
Clause 12(iii) says a marriage would be annulled if either spouse converts to another religion.
The patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said the matter was related to the basic human rights of Hindus in Pakistan.

“There are fears the clause will be misused for forced conversions of married women the same way young girls are being subjected to forced conversions," he said.
He referred to the kidnapping of teenage Hindu girls who were then presented them in courts with a certificate that she had married after converting to Islam.

PPP Senator Taj Haider opposed the idea in the law.

"I do not understand how the marriage will be annulled if any of the partners converts to Islam," Haider said, adding the clause will also discourage cross-marriages.

Civil society activist Kishan Sharma, who is also the chairman of REAT Network, an independent civil society organisation, said this clause was added by the CII and it was not a part of the original draft.

“The key concern is that only one option of dissolution of marriage has been included in the law and that too where the partners might be willing to live together despite different faiths."

“As societies change, attitudes of individuals also change and even now we see youths belonging to Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities deciding their fate to live together," Sharma said.
"But stopping this change through laws will only add to discontent and frustration in society," he said. 


Hindus in Pak protest for law to register their marriages
March 30, 2012
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad

Pakistan's minority Hindu community has protested the prolonged delay in the approval of a law to register their marriages, saying the lack of legislation affected the inheritance rights of women.
A large group of Hindus joined a protest outside the National Press Club in Islamabad on Thursday and shouted slogans against the government. They also performed a mock Hindu marriage to protest the delay in the approval of the Hindu Marriage Registration Act by parliament.
Shakuntala Devi, an activist of the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement, said Hindu women had suffered for more than six decades due to the absence of any law to protect their matrimonial rights.
"There are no family laws for Hindus. Their marriages are not registered. The women cannot claim their inheritance rights as they cannot produce any evidence of their marriage in court," she told the media.
There were cases of married Hindu women being kidnapped while their husbands were unable to approach the court because they had no documentary evidence of their marriage.
"Women cannot file for divorce nor can they claim custody of their children as men often deny the marriage in court," Shakuntala Devi said. There were also cases of Hindu women being abducted and married off to non-Hindus and even this phenomenon goes unchallenged because there is no law to protect the women, she said.
"The most challenging task is to get our national identity cards. We have to bribe the staff to get the NIC and sometimes, we cannot stay in a hotel because we are unable to produce a marriage registration certificate," she said.
Over 100 members of the minority Hindu community from across Pakistan joined Thursday's protest that was organised by SCRM and ActionAid. Some of the protesters carried placards with their demands and slogans like 'No more delay to marriage registration'.
"What they are demanding is just documentation. It has nothing to do with religion," said Amir Nadeem, a lawyer who joined the protest. He listed several incidents in which Hindu women were denied their legal rights only because they did not have any documents to prove their marriage.
Shakuntala Devi said Hindu women were "constantly victimised" as were deprived of basic social, political and economic rights in the absence of a marriage registration law.
"It has been over four years that we have been waging a struggle for our rights. In 2011, a bill was presented in the National Assembly for a law to register Hindu marriages but so far there has been no progress," she said.
All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement chief Haroon Sarab Diyal said the Hindus prepared the draft legislation in 2009. "The draft was prepared after extensive research on prevailing Hindu marriage laws in India and Nepal and it was made according to the Pakistani constitution but it was never passed by parliament," he said.
The same draft is pending with the Human Rights ministry but landlords and some influential members of the Hindu community, who want the 'panchayat' system to remain in place, were creating hurdles in its passage, Diyal claimed.
He also contended that Hindu lawmakers should be directly elected instead of being "selected" by political parties.

The Hindu February 18, 2017
Pakistan Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

Islamabad: February 18, 2017 11:18 IST

The much-awaited landmark bill to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan is set to become a law with the Senate unanimously passing it.

The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, which is the first elaborate Hindu community’s personal law, was adopted by the Senate on Friday.

The bill had already been approved by the lower house or the National Assembly on September 26, 2015, and it now just needs signature of the President, a mere formality, to become a law.
Dawn News reported that the bill is widely acceptable to Hindus living in Pakistan because it relates to marriage, registration of marriage, separation and remarriage, with the minimum age of marriage set at 18 years for both boys and girls.

The bill will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage.

It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Law.
The bill presented in the Senate by Law Minister Zahid Hamid faced no opposition or objection. It was mainly due to the sympathetic views expressed by the lawmakers of all political parties in the relevant standing committees.

The bill was approved by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on January 2 with an overwhelming majority.

However, Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had opposed the bill, claiming that the Constitution was vast enough to cater to such needs.

While approving the bill, committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced, “This was unfair —— not only against the principles of Islam but also a human rights violation —— that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leading Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz, had been working relentlessly for three years to have a Hindu marriage law in the country.
“Such laws will help discourage forced conversions and streamline the Hindu community after the marriage of individuals,” he said, expressing gratitude to the parliamentarians.

Mr. Vankwani also said it was difficult for married Hindu women to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion.

The law paves the way for a document ‘Shadi Parath’ —— similar to the ‘Nikahnama’ for Muslims —— to be signed by a pundit and registered with the relevant government department.

Dawn February 15, 2015 | Reuters — Updated Feb 15, 2016 10:57pm

KARACHI: For the first time in the country's history, marriage laws for millions of Hindus living in Sindh have been codified after the Sindh Assembly approved the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2016, on Monday.

Senior PPP leader and Sindh Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro moved the bill in the provincial assembly which was later passed after a debate between the opposition and treasury benches.

The bride and groom cannot be less than 18 years, according to the text of the approved draft.
Married couples will be required to obtain a marriage registration certificate, while a couple can also face fines in case their marriage is not registered. The law can be applied retroactively to existing marriages.

Zoroastrians and Sikhs will also be able to register their marriages under the new law.
Hindus, despite being the second-largest religious minority group in Pakistan, with a population of 3.3 million, had no legal mechanism to register marriages.

Unlike the Muslim majority or Christians, Hindus lacked any legal framework for protection of their marriages and are unable to provide legal proof when required.

Christians, the other main religious minority, have a British law dating back to 1870 regulating their marriages.

Without the law, Hindus say their women were easy targets for rape or forced marriage and faced problems in proving the legitimacy of their relationships before the law. Widows have been particularly disadvantaged.

Without official proof of relationships, getting government documents issued or moving forward on any other activity which involves documentation — from opening bank accounts to applying for visas — became next to impossible for any citizen.

After the 18th Amendment, the issues of religious minorities and their family matters became provincial subjects but the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies passed resolutions allowing the federation to legislate Hindu marriage law.

A similar resolution is pending in the Punjab Assembly.

A draft bill has already been passed by the National Assembly standing committee on law and justice, while Senator Nasreen Jalil, the chairperson of the Senate standing committee on law and justice, has also convened a meeting of the committee to take up the matter.

A clause in the draft Hindu Marriage Bill, which states that a marriage will be annulled if any of the spouses converts to another religion, is being vehemently contested by both its opponents and supporters.

Clause 12(iii) says a marriage will be annulled if any of the spouses converts to another religion
The patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, PML-N MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said the matter related to the basic human rights of the Hindus in Pakistan.

“There are fears the clause would be misused for forced conversions of married women the same way young girls are being subjected to forced conversions.”

He referred to the current practice by certain elements who kidnapped teenage girls and eventually presented them in courts along with a certificate that the girl had married after converting to Islam.
PPP parliamentarian Senator Taj Haider opposed the idea in the law, and said the clause could also discourage cross-marriages.

The US Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had “hit an all-time low” and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest those who attack or discriminate against them.

But many see the passage of the bill as a ray of hope.

“Now after the passage of this bill in the Sindh Assembly, after 70 years, Hindus will also have a marriage certificate just like Muslims do,” said Shahnaz Sheedi, the coordinator for South Asia Partnership Pakistan, a civil rights movement.

“We hope that bill will be soon adopted at the national level,” she said. The National Assembly in Islamabad has been considering such a bill it is still in committee.

Dawn January 2, 2017

Inamullah Khattak — Updated Jan 02, 2017 04:14pm

In what appears to be a New Year's gift for Hindu minorities in Pakistan, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights unanimously approved the much-awaited Hindu Marriages Bill on Monday.

Earlier in September, the Natio­nal Assembly had passed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, thus paving the way for the adoption of a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus living in Pakistan.

The bill will enable the Hindu community to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation.

There are penalties for violating the provisions of the bill, which allows Hindus to finally have a proof of marriage document called the shadiparat, similar to the nikahnama for Muslims.
The bill also allows separated Hindu persons to remarry. Clause 17 of the bill states that 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".

The Senate committee under the chair of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil took up the bill for discussion.

Soon after the bill was approved, the committee room 4 in Parliament House echoed with jubilation as senators and officials of different ministries started thumping their desks.

Minority member in National Assembly Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani called the move a new year's gift for Hindus living in Pakistan.

"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.

Top constitutional expert Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said the bill is in accordance with the essence of the Constitution.

Ahsan clarified that the bill was not in contrast with Islamic jurisprudence as Islam emphasises protection of minorities.


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