The lack of willingness to discuss marriages enforced on Hindu women, in parliament, will have seriously detrimental consequences on the country’s largest religious minority, according to the government’s top minority representatives.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, State Minister for Interfaith Harmony and Minorities Affairs Akram Masih Gill emphasised how the Hindu community’s decades-long struggle to have their marriages accepted by the legal system remains precarious – although a law to address the issue has been drafted, parliament remains silent on the matter.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Minorities’ Affairs Dr Paul Bhatti expressed similar concern after a one-on-one meeting with Gill, especially over the destruction of minorities’ places of worship. He said the problem was especially severe in Sindh and Punjab, where the population of minorities amounts to around eight million.
“It’s time to introduce legislation to protect minorities’ rights,” he added.
Representatives of minorities from interior Sindh conveyed their concerns when Hindu girls were being forced to marry Muslims after converting to Islam, Bhatti said.
“We had a sitting to discuss various issues, specifically forcible conversion of religion, enforced marriages, marriage registration and threats to their worship places,” Gill added. In reply to a question about the security of Christian worship places, Dr Bhatti confirmed that the Christian community was also living in fear after increasing incidents of forced conversions.
“We both (Gill and Bhatti) conveyed our concerns to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani last month; Paul said the issue will be taken up with other lawmakers representing minorities to finalise the bill for marriage registration,” Gill said, stressing the need to give more power to the national commission for the protection of minority rights.
Gill also said that a meeting will be held by him and Dr Bhatti to discuss five to six departments which fall under the commission for legislation on minority affairs.
The issue of registration of Hindu marriages will also be taken up.
Fresh incidents in Sindh and Punjab have indicated that Hindus are facing severe problems in having their marriages registered, the minister said. Concerns have also been conveyed to the provincial leadership for the protection of Hindus and their temples in Sindh and upper Punjab.
Gill added that another problem was that minority women feared that the Muslim majority would not come to their aid in cases of discrimination.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.