After decades of delay and inaction, the Pakistan National Assembly today finally gave its nod to much-debated Hindu Marriage Bill that seeks to address key issues of the Hindu community, including matters relating to the registration of marriages, divorce and forced conversions.
According to Pakistani news website Dawn, the bill, Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, which was tabled before the House by Human Rights minister Kamran Michael, was passed unanimously. The bill will now be forwarded to the Senate for consideration and passage.
The bill allows separated Hindu persons to remarry. Clause 17 of the bill states that Hindu widows ‘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’.
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' for Muslims.
The draft law was originally moved by two minority lawmakers – Ramesh Lal of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Asiya Nasir of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) JUI-F. The draft bill was later supported by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party which is headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
A large number of Hindu community members, especially women, do not have basic documentation to prove their marital status. They are also deprived of legal rights, such as inheritance, remarriage, separation, adoption of children and annulment of marriage; they also face problems while travelling abroad.
The bill comes at a time of increased violence against Pakistan's minorities. Some Hindus have fled to India in recent years citing discrimination and religious persecution. Pakistan was created in 1947 after India was partitioned at the end of the British rule. Today, Hindus are said to make up more than two percent of Pakistan's population of 182.1 million.