Calling for an end to institutionalised discrimination going back 62 years, the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement of Pakistan (SCRM) demanded quick passage of a law pertaining to Hindu marriage registration.
In a press conference held here on Thursday, the SCRM pleaded the parliamentarians and concerned citizens to give Hindus the same treatment as other communities vis-a-vis their right to register marriages.
They warned the government that they would launch a forceful campaign if it failed to protect their basic rights, particularly that of marriage registration. They announced the launch of a nation-wide “signature campaign” in this regard.
Hindu women, hailing from different parts of the country, expressed regret over the government’s failure to end injustice against the poor women of the Hindu community. They alleged that they were being discriminated against in the right to possess Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIC), which, in their view, was congruent with a denial of their basic rights of citizenship.
“On not being able to produce marriage registration certificates, we are not entitled to get CNIC, which in turn denies us the right to vote as well. Despite the Supreme Court’s suo motu ruling of November 23 2010 in our favour, no measures have been taken to introduce legal provisions for our rights,” said Sangeeta Devi.
Shami Mai, a poor woman from Rahim Yar Khan, said, “In case of separation or domestic violence, a Hindu woman cannot register a complaint in government departments because she does not have any legal document to establish the perpetrator as her husband.”
Hindu families also face a great deal of problems while travelling. “If we travel or stay in a hotel, policemen and hotel administrations mistreat us. They become suspicious of our relation to each other. If the government passes a law that enables
us to register married couples, we would be able to defend our self respect by showing documentary evidence of
our statuses. In most cases, we end up spending nights at railway stations or foot-paths,” complained Naina Bai.
In the view of Anita Vadhani, an O-level student, Hindu women faced many more problems than women of other faiths in Pakistan. “If one of our girls is abducted or there is an incident of forced conversion or remarriage, we cannot contest the case in courts because we don’t have marriage certificates,” she told The Express Tribune.
Shanktala Devi, a housewife, said that the absence of marriage registration laws had deprived Hindu women of their right to property and other rights conferred upon a divorced or widowed woman. She urged the quick passage of a bill ensuring them their right to register marriages in local government departments.
The members of the Hindu community threatened to hold a sit-in in front of the parliament building in June if their demands remained unmet. They urged the media and the concerned citizens of Pakistan to show support for their campaign by participating in it.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 01st, 2011.