Pakistan

National assembly passes Hindu marriage bill

hindu-marriage

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly has passed a landmark bill giving Pakistan’s small Hindu minority the right to register marriages, the last major hurdle on the way to enacting a law aimed at protecting women’s rights.

The National Assembly passed the bill after 10 months of deliberation. The Senate is expected to pass the law without any significant delay.

Hindus make up approximately 1.6 percent of country’s approximately 190 million population, but have not had any legal mechanisms to register their marriages since independence from Britain in 1947.

Christians, the other main religious minority, have a British law dating back to 1870 regulating their marriages.

The new bill sets the minimum age for marriage for Hindus at 18. The minimum legal age for marriage for citizens of other religions is 18 for men and 16 for women.

Breaking the law regarding the minimum age would result in six months’ jail and a 5,000-rupee ($47) fine.

Zohra Yusuf, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said the proof of marriage would offer greater protection to Hindu women.

“Once marriages are registered, at least they have certain rights that are ensured,” she said.

Widows, in particular, were disadvantaged, she said, being unable to prove marriage to their husbands in order to gain government welfare benefits. The new law legalises remarriage for a widow six months after her husband’s death.

It also grants Hindus the right to divorce, with women having the additional right to do so on grounds of negligence, bigamy or having been married before 18.

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