ISLAMABAD: Lawyers, human right activists and members of the National Lobbying Delegation (NLD) for minority rights and Community World Service Asia demanded government to pass Hindu marriage bill (HMB) without further delay. They were speaking at concluding session of a two-day national conference on the bill at a local hotel on Thursday.
Members of ruling and opposition parties agreed to legislate in this regard, but NLD members said the promises have been since 1976. Now the time has come to pass the law and implement it, they said.
In a declaration, it was noted that Hindus, despite being the second-largest religious minority group in Pakistan, with a population of 3.3 million, have no legal mechanism to register marriages. Unlike the Muslim majority or Christians, Hindus lack any legal framework for protection of their marriages and are unable to provide legal proof when required, it said. The declaration also stated that this creates problems in obtaining pensions and other benefits after the death of a married person.
It also provides a way out for people who abduct married women and then forcibly marry them, because no legal record of Hindu marriages is available, it further added.
“We demand that the government provides the law so that forced conversions of Hindu women could be minimised,” the NLD members demanded.
They complained that political parties did not show much interest in the national conference. They demanded that the provinces, particularly Punjab and Sindh, also pass resolutions in favour of a law so that a uniform marriage bill for Hindus could be introduced. The Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies have passed resolutions in support of the bill, which is pending before the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights.
The declaration of the national conference also referred to Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which notes, “The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognised,” while the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates, “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law”. This integral right of the Hindu community cannot be recognised in the absence of a legal framework, it mentioned.
The declaration also stated that Article 35 of the Constitution guarantees protection of marriage and family, but the absence of a law means that no such guarantee is available to Hindu marriages. It also mentioned that Article 14 of the constitution ensures the dignity of man and protection of the privacy of the home. It also referred to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which demands respecting the right of every citizen to get married of their free will and for the state is to protect them.
NLD members said the absence of marriage law means that there is also no law available on divorce, which is affecting many women. It is imperative for the state to act now and make laws that can work towards protecting the pivotal rights of women, they said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2016.
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