Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Hindu marriage bill creates row in Pakistan

Islamabad, Feb 14 (IANS) A clause in the draft Hindu marriage bill, which states that a marriage will be annulled if either spouse converts to another religion, has triggered vehement contest between its opponents and supporters in Pakistan.

Seeking an end to the controversy, Senator Nasreen Jalil, chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, has called a meeting of the panel to discuss the matter, Dawn online reported.

The draft legislation has been passed by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

Senator Jalil said: “We would like to discuss the matter. If there is a consensus, the committee will forward its recommendations to the speaker of the National Assembly to get the clause deleted.”

At its meeting on February 8, the National Assembly Standing Committee witnessed serious opposition from Mohammad Khan Sheerani, the Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), to the clause.

But Shugufta Jumani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Ali Mohammad of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) clearly said if any of the spouses embraced Islam, the marriage should be terminated.

Clause 12(iii) says a marriage would be annulled if either spouse converts to another religion.

The patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said the matter was related to the basic human rights of Hindus in Pakistan.

“There are fears the clause will be misused for forced conversions of married women the same way young girls are being subjected to forced conversions,” he said.

He referred to the kidnapping of teenage Hindu girls who were then presented them in courts with a certificate that she had married after converting to Islam.

PPP Senator Taj Haider opposed the idea in the law.

“I do not understand how the marriage will be annulled if any of the partners converts to Islam,” Haider said, adding the clause will also discourage cross-marriages.

Civil society activist Kishan Sharma, who is also the chairman of REAT Network, an independent civil society organisation, said this clause was added by the CII and it was not a part of the original draft.

“The key concern is that only one option of dissolution of marriage has been included in the law and that too where the partners might be willing to live together despite different faiths.”

“As societies change, attitudes of individuals also change and even now we see youths belonging to Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities deciding their fate to live together,” Sharma said.

“But stopping this change through laws will only add to discontent and frustration in society,” he said.

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