ISLAMABAD: The report of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 was presented in the National Assembly on Wednesday. Now that the draft bill has been laid in the lower house, it is just one step away from being approved by the National Assembly.
PPP MNA Ramesh Lal, one of the bill’s movers, said it took around 10 months for the committee to clear the bill and another six months for its report to be presented in the house.
“The delay was possibly because of extraordinary debates and discussion around the bill, but at least now the government should consider tabling it in the house in the next session,” Mr Lal said.
Jamaat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) MNA Aasiya Nasir, who also moved the bill, said fair laws and their application without discrimination was one way to eradicate extremism from society, which she called the root of terrorism in the country.
The bill was approved by the standing committee on February 8, and has seen support from the Hindu community and liberals. According to the chairman of the committee, Chaudhry Bashir Virk: “This is because it is a complete bill, and all segments – including the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) – were consulted during the course of discussions in the committee.”
CII chairman Maulana Mohammad Sheerani is also a member of the standing committee on law and justice.
However, some of the more religious members of the Hindu community have expressed strong reservations regarding the bill’s contents.
Contentious clauses include clause 12 on the ‘Termination of Hindu marriage’ and clause 15 on the ‘Termination of Hindu marriage by mutual consent’.
The draft bill allows separated individuals to remarry, and clause 17 states that a Hindu widow is entitled to remarry and shall have the right to do so, of her own will and consent, after a period of six months since the death of her husband.
It is expected that the cases of abduction of married Hindu women will stop once this bill is enacted.
“There are penalties for violating the provisions of this act and anyone who kidnaps a married Hindu woman will be liable to punishments after this law is approved, because the victim’s family will be able to show proof of marriage,” Mr Virk said. He added that clause 12(iii) of the bill is being misunderstood.
“The clause only says that if any of the spouses converts from Hinduism, the other partner has the right to claim separation,” he said. “We cannot stop willful conversions, but everybody is against forced conversions and this law will not promote forced conversions.”
The bill is expected to curtail forced conversions because it will allow the registration of Hindu marriages in the relevant government departments.
The law would give the Hindu community proof of marriage in the form of a shadiparat, which is similar to a Muslim nikahnama.
Most cases of forced conversions occur because Hindu girls and women are abducted and forcibly married before being presented in court. Under this bill, Hindu girls cannot marry before the age of 18 – most girls that are abducted are minors.
Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have consented to the federal government formulating a Hindu marriage law that they would then adopt, while Sindh had formulated its own Hindu marriage registration law.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2016