PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly passed a bill against centuries-old ‘Ghag’ custom, whereby a man can claim the right to marry any woman of his choice without her consent.
The Elimination of Custom of Ghag Bill 2012 was laid before the house by Minister for Social Welfare Sitara Ayaz.
There was much debate on the bill in Tuesday’s session when Ayaz proposed some amendments to the bill and said the punishment for the crime should be increased from seven years to 14 years.
However, Law Minister Arshad Abdullah objected to the suggestion and said the original version of the bill passed by the cabinet also contained punishment extending up to seven years. He added that departments concerned should not accept dictates from outside, referring to the role of non-governmental organisations in the legislation.
He insisted on retaining the seven-year punishment, adding that Ayaz’s proposed amendment lacks proportionality between crime and punishment.
Abdullah was backed by Israrullah Khan Gandapur, who pointed out the lack of legal regulation required to increase the punishment.
Awami National Party’s lawmaker Musarrat Shafi also said the punishment could not exceed over seven years. At this point, Ayaz withdrew her amendment.
The bill calls for making ‘Ghag’ a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. It prohibits a person from – forcibly or by criminal means – demanding a woman for marriage by making a public declaration.
The violators can be punished or imprisoned for up to seven years and not less than three years or be liable to a fine of Rs0.5 million or both. The bill ordains offences under this act shall be tried by the court of sessions established under the code.
In other matters, the K-P Universities Amendment Ordinance 2012, K-P Public Services Academy Act 2013, Travel Agencies Amendment Act 2013, K-P Hotels and Restaurants Amendment Act 2013, and the K-P Tourist Guide Amendment Act 2013 were also introduced in the house.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2013.