The much-awaited bill to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan on Tuesday moved closer to reality after a Senate committee approved the landmark draft legislation, nearly four months after it was passed by the National Assembly. The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 will become a law after it will be passed by the Senate, the upper house of the Parliament.
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights unanimously approved the much-awaited Hindu Marriages Bill, paving the way to its presentation in the Senate. The Senate committee under the chair of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil took up the bill for discussion and later approved it.
Considered as 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 Dawn reported that 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 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. After passing through the committee stage, the bill will be presented before the Senate where it is sure to win bipartisan support.
The bill will be applicable to all Pakistan minus Sindh province which last year separately adopted its own Hindu marriage law. Hindus make up approximately 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s Muslim-majority 190 million population, but they have not had any legal mechanisms to register their marriages since independence in 1947.
Christians, the other main religious minority, have a British law dating back to 1870 regulating their marriages.