Today I have been recognised, not as a Hindu in Pakistan, but as a Pakistani Hindu

The Hindu Marriage Bill has passed and it will help Hindu couples confronted by matrimonial issues.

Pooja Rajput February 15, 2016
The delayed Hindu Marriage Bill has passed and as anticipated it will bring a shelter of lee and glimmer of hope for many Hindu couples confronted by matrimonial issues. In its absence young, innocent women have been forcibly converted to Islam, widows have led unprivileged lives and there is no way of proving their marriage to claim their inheritance, married couples have faced harassment since they have no certificate proving their nuptials, and newly wedded couples have endured separation waiting for difficult documentation required to apply for immigration.

Why is the registration of Hindu marriages important?

First and foremost it establishes that Hindus enjoy equal rights as the Muslims of Pakistan and are Pakistani, not only by birth but also by rights granted to all citizens. Second, the registration of a marriage makes it legal: legal means that it is recognised by the State allowing preservation of the rights of both the parties involved.

This is extremely important, especially to ensure that Pakistani Hindu women and their rights are protected. Hindu women have, in the past, been subjected to domestic violence with no way of escaping it; I mean, look at it this way, we live in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and this woman who is ‘living’ with this man (even if she is married she has no way to prove it) and hence were to report the case to our police – what do you think would happen? I’ll tell you, the same thing that happens to every woman who is raped and has to provide two male witnesses to the event. She has no way to prove she is married to him and living with him before marriage becomes her burden to fight – the onus lies completely on her. If the marriage is not recognised, under the law it does not exist and if the marriage does not exist, how is she supposed to get it annulled or obtain a divorce from an abusive husband? Hindu men have taken advantage of this and there has been a steady rise in domestic violence in the Pakistani Hindu community. If proven guilty, a husband can be jailed for up to four years under the charge of domestic violence in Pakistan. But if a woman cannot prove a marriage no case can be filed making her extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation at home.

The Hindu Marriage Bill ensures the protection of women rights in the event of divorce which have been violated in the past. There is no room and concept of divorce in Hinduism but this law legitimises and preserves the rights of women if and when it happens. It ensures the conservation of women’s matrimonial rights such as pension for widows, share in husband’s property, etcetera and minimum marriage age requirement of 18 years. This requirement will play its part in the much-needed renunciation of Hindu community’s old customs and traditions of child marriages.

Another unfortunate consequence of these marriages not being recognised is when a Pakistani Hindu couple applies abroad for literally anything; immigration, a job, a passport. Recently, a close friend of mine found herself stuck in a conundrum due to the lack of a registered marriage. She and her husband had applied for immigration to Canada. Now for a normal Pakistani Muslim couple the process was fairly simple – they produced their marriage document to prove their marriage. Because my friend did not have a marriage document, she had to approach the Panchayat (the Hindu community’s regional head) for a certificate to prove that her marriage was in fact real. Once they obtained the relevant certificate they had to approach NADRA for a CNIC with her husband’s name on it – this delayed the immigration process quite a bit. It has been three years since they applied.

Now, thankfully, we can get our marriages registered directly and overcome such hassle.

The Sindh Assembly, today, proved its progressiveness by being the first in Pakistan to pass the Hindu Marriage Bill with the following conditions for a marriage to achieve legal recognition:

A. Parties to the marriage are of 18 years of age or above

B. Parties to marriage are able to give consent

C. At least two witnesses are present at the time of the solemnisation and registration of marriage

According to the bill, every marriage being solemnised under this act will be registered with the union council/ward within 45 days of the solemnisation.

This Bill lacks in addressing the issue of abduction and forced conversion of Hindu women under the premise of marriage. It does, however, nullify the marriage if it is found that one of the partners have converted to another religion. The clause has been reproduced below:
“Clause 12(iii) says a marriage will be annulled if any of the spouses converts to another religion.”

My concern, however, is the fact that some conversions take place by choice and others do not – this clause does not draw that distinction, hence, I am not sure how this would play out in a court of law. The patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, PML-N MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said,
“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.”

Another issue that irked me was whether or not an individual who forcibly converts a Hindu girl will be eligible for appropriate punishment or not. The Bill seems to be barren in that regard as far as my layman eyes could tell. If, however, there is a clause that punishes people for forcibly converting Hindu women, it could also help in mitigating the threat of abduction faced by Hindu women every day.

The Hindu community of Pakistan is looking in earnest at the government for further securing their rights with proper legislation. It has been 68 years since we have spoken about giving minorities equal rights – perhaps it is time to live up to our promises.

Today as a Hindu in Pakistan, I have also been recognised as a Pakistani Hindu – things can only look better from now on.

Pakistan Zindabad!
Pooja Rajput The author has a Bachelors in Electronics engineering from Mehran University of Engineering & Technology. She is currently working as a network engineer at a local news organisation.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Rohan | 7 years ago | Reply ". Thus, Separatism/Secession is unauthorized/against Indian Constitution.' A constitution that did not even exist in colonial British India (and one that could not without the consultation of the Muslim populace, something which the Congress failed miserably in)! Laws can NOT be applied retroactively. You're the one delusional here if you fail to understand this simple concept. The Indian constitution today is irrelevant as far as British India goes. "more than 10,000 died as a result of "Direct Action Day"" You conveniently neglect the religion of those who suffered which included as many if not more Muslims as far as Calcutta was concerned. Thousands of Muslims were massacred and driven out from UP and Bihar too, a province under Congress rule. In any case neither the Congress nor the League explicitly encouraged violence and the violence was regrettable. But this is irrelevant to the demands presented by the Muslim League (backed by the Muslim populace) as per the 1945 elections "I have no idea what is the significance of that link in this context where ML Lost miserably" Did you even read it? The ML united almost the entirety of the Muslim vote from both Muslim majority and minority regions? How was that a failure again? I'll quote "the League had united the Muslim vote and as such it gained the negotiating power to seek a separate Muslim homeland as it became clear that a united India would prove highly unstable." "This is exactly what Muslims do... " Also, you seem to be confusing the social with the political. The examples you give are (with the exception of Lebanon) ones pursued by Islamic Social conservatives. Ironically the person most in favour these such as Muslim personal law was Maulana Abdul Kalam so your criticism would be more justified against him rather than against the League or Pakistan's supporters. It bears mentioning that Islamic social conservatives actually sided with the Congress and actively opposed the League while relative liberals like Ahmedis and Shias supported it. The Muslim Leagues demands were political in nature rather than social so conflating Islamist demands with the ML's political demands is fallacious.
LS | 7 years ago I never said Constitution is retroactively applicable, bringing that into discussion is meaningless. The reason I quoted it is that all democracies follow that rule and it was amply clear to everyone including Jinnah that India is GOING to be a democracy, thus despite that fact he chose to put forth those 14 points to divide the legislation on religious lines. An election and Muslim League Winning 30 seats DOES NOT in any way indicate an approval to Create a separate Nation. Elections are held to occupy a seat in legislation NOT a certificate for country's' division!! "Direct Action Day" What you are neglecting is that - Muslims started that murdering spree on Jinnah's call. That show of strength quickly turned in to murderous romp because "Muslims FELT that once British pulled out Muslims will not be treated fairly" - Now why that feeling? Because Hindus were busy getting butchered at the hands of Muslims for more than 300 years and rough estimates are 80 Million! Well it is nice way of saying that IRAN and IRAQ, Afghanistan converted because of social Conservatism instead of Muslims burning the Zoroastrian books and executing their priests and forbidding them for owning any property. The gradual process of conversion began by threats, persuasion and enacting laws that made Zoroastrians life difficult. Just like in Pakistan where a minority cannot occupy any prominent post in the government! They are not accorded basic rights - In fact there is not even a Hindu Marriage law!! So the perceived threat and Muslim initiated violence were the reason and are still the reason for majority of riots in India. Whether it is Godhara, Gujarat where 52 odd Hindus were burned alive in a train or a Temple razed to make a Mosque... I am glad that Pakistan was created... That separated the most Toxic population from India!
Rohan | 7 years ago | Reply You're moving the goalposts now. Earlier you said that reservations should not be allowed because they are unsecular and undemocratic, but now you claim that reservations can be considered if the community in question is "Backward". Why don't the same rules apply to them? After all "one denied them rights to fight an election and win " In any case, the representation of Muslims in the Indian parliament has always been abysmally low relative to their population, even more so with the BJP in power.
LS | 7 years ago "You're moving the goalposts now." Maybe you have a comprehension issue. I have multiple times clarified by now by writing that "Reservation in legislation based on Religion is a ridiculous idea." OR "In a democracy you are NOT expected to ask for a Nation just because you are some percentage of Religion in the nation" Muslims today are 13-15% of the Indian population and they occupy 10.2% of the seats. Not abysmally low.. Pretty close to their % in the population that too without reservation...
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