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Pakistan Begins Process to Legalize Hindu Marriages

A Senate panel in Muslim-majority Pakistan has unanimously approved a piece of legislation this week that brings an anticipated Hindu Marriage bill inches closer to enactment.

Earlier in September, the lower house — known as the Natio­nal Assembly, where the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party commands a majority — approved the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, thus setting the groundwork for the adoption of a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus living in Pakistan.

Now, a panel in the upper house, the Senate, has approved the bill, paving the way for its presentation before the full Senate.

Essentially, the bill is “considered as a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus living in Pakistan, the bill will enable the Hindu community to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation,” reports the Indian Express.

DAWN reports:

The bill will enable the Hindu community to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation.

There are penalties for violating the provisions of the bill, which allows  Hindus to finally have a proof of marriage document called the shadiparat, similar to the nikahnama for Muslims.

The bill also allows separated Hindu persons to remarry. Clause 17 of the bill states that a Hindu widow “shall have the right to re-marry of her own will and consent after the death of her husband provided a period of six months has lapsed after the husband’s death.”

As with practically any other law, the bill contains some sort of directive.

“Today, we are proud to be Hindu Pakistanis after the approval of the bill. Hindus will now be able to get registered their marriages and also apply for divorce under family laws,” declared Minority member in National Assembly Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani who described the unanimous approval of the bill by the Senate panel as a new year’s gift for Hindus living in Pakistan.

DAWN quotes Senator Aitzaz Ahsan as saying, “the bill is in accordance with the essence of the [Islamic] Constitution” of Pakistan, adding, that “the bill was not in contrast with Islamic jurisprudence as Islam emphasises protection of minorities.”

According to the NGO Aurat Foundation, an estimated 1,000 girls (predominantly Christian and Hindu) are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan each year, many under 18, primarily through marriage and bonded labor.

It appears some politicians may have been paying attention to the large number of Pakistani residents, many described as human rights activists, who took to the streets in Pakistan for National Minorities Day to protest against the alleged forced conversions of thousands of Hindus and Christians emphasizing their demand for legislative action on the issue to put a rein on the increasingly brutal practice.

Nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and predominantly Indian are known regional rivals. In recent months, the animosity between India and Pakistan has come to bear during their ongoing deadly conflict in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they both have competing claims to, along with China.

Nevertheless, the Senate Functional Committee on Human rights in Pakistan voted in favor of Hindu Marriages Bill on Monday while they are fighting Hindus in their Muslim-majority portion of Kashmir.

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