Hindus have demanded at a press conference in Islamabad that the government take immediate action to ensure that their marriages are registered. The Scheduled Castes Rights Movement has pointed out that the failure to ensure this has made it impossible for a Hindu woman to prove marriage — this complicates the issuance of identity cards and deprives members of the Hindu community of the right to vote. The absence of proof of marriage also makes it harder to prove abductions in cases where Hindu women are taken away, forced to convert and made to marry Muslims. Despite a November 2010 Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Hindu community, no change has been made in regulations. This is just one of the many examples of discrimination against the minority group.
The issue of marriage goes beyond the Hindu minority. While the precise legal position regarding civil marriages is a matter of some debate, in practice, notably since the 1980s, there has been a strict adherence to Shariah, making it impossible, for example, for a Muslim and Hindu to marry without conversion. The same issue pertains to Ahmadis marrying a Muslim. Things had, records show, been quite different in the early years of Pakistan, giving wider range to adult choice in such matters. Now that over 20 years have passed since the era of General Ziaul Haq, perhaps these issues all need to be thought about again and their implications should be considered.
But where there can be no doubt at all is on the need to register Hindu marriages. The failure on this count makes no sense and reduces the community to the level of unequal beings, living under the same sun but deprived of its light. The demands of the community and the ruling of the court need to be enforced without further delay. Otherwise we can make no claims to be the state envisaged by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2011.
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