A delegation comprising members of Pakistan’s minority communities on Monday urged the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan to expedite the drafting of rules for the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act. The federal government approved the Hindu Marriage Bill in March 2017 with the consent of the governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Baluchistan provinces and issued necessary instructions to them to draft the required rules.
However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is yet to draft the necessary rules for the Act. Due to a lack of constitutional protection, many Hindu girls are deprived of their basic rights, which they are entitled to in case of divorce. Pakistan has about 3.8 million Hindus, which constitute approximately two per cent of the population.
The National Lobbying Delegation for Minority Rights (NLD) led by Hindu Scholar Haroon Sarab Diyal called on provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Fazal Shakoor Khan to redress legal issues faced by the religious minorities in Pakistan. Diyal was accompanied by NLDs members Krishan Sharma and Pushpa Kumari. The NLD delegates briefed the minister about the need for early approval of rules for the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act 2017.
The minister and the law team of the government were informed that the law was impractical in the absence of rules and the Hindu community was facing serious domestic and legal problems as there was no option for the aggrieved parties to seek separation if required. Kumari said it was a human rights issue for any female who is subjected to physical or mental torture, but the law does not allow divorce or separation.
The minister was informed that in the absence of a legal framework the registration of Hindu marriages too was a serious issue in some areas. The delegation also presented a draft of the rules to the minister that has been framed by the legal experts. The minister promised to take up the copy of the draft rules to the custodian of the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act 2017 in the province.
The minister assured the delegation - comprising members from the Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities belonging to Khyber Pakhtunklhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan - that he will further the matter for early approval and implementation of the rules. The Hindu Marriage Act enshrines the conditions for a valid marriage and provides official documentation that can be used to verify marital status.
The Act sets the conditions for a valid Hindu marriage within the country. The condition includes valid consent, both participants being over the age of 18, and a ban on polygamy. It also details the circumstances for separation or divorce and gives formal legal validity to all existing Hindu marriages.
Romana Bashir, a member of the NLD also briefed the minister about the need for upgrading the Christian personal laws. She highlighted that the current laws governing the marriage and separation of Christians in Pakistan were the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and Christian Marriage Act 1872.
The minister also promised the delegation that the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa government will extend all possible support to the federal government too for the implementation of the amended Christian Marriage and Divorce Act in the province. The inordinate delay to draft rules for the Hindu Marriage Act by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has put the matrimonial knots of scores of couples in limbo, the community leaders here had said last year.
Dayal said in April last year that 18 cases of divorce of Hindu girls were under trial in various courts in Peshawar, but due to lack of proper legislation, the incidents of Hindu girls’ divorce had become frequent and girls were mostly the sufferers in such cases.