Pakistan lawmaker seeks amendment in Hindu Marriage bill

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Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) Within days of Pakistan becoming the first Muslim country to give Hindus the right to register their marriage, a lawmaker in the national assembly has sought amendment in the Hindu Marriage Bill.

The bill was passed on Monday by lawmakers in Sindh province — home to the majority of Pakistan’s three million Hindus.

Pakistan Muslim League-N member Ramesh Kumar Vankwami on Wednesday won the support of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights for amending the bill already cleared by a National Assembly committee.

Vankwami had been demanding removal of a clause in the draft of Hindu Marriage Bill that stated that a marriage would be dissolved if any of the spouses converted to another religion.

“The clause can be misused to forcefully convert married Hindu women the same way young girls have been kidnapped and forced to convert to other religions,” he pleaded with the committee.

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Clause 12 of the bill hit the basic human rights of the Hindus living in Pakistan, he said.

Senator Farhatullah Babar supported annulling “the repressive” clause. “It amounts to promoting forced conversions not only of young unmarried girls but also of married Hindu women. It is a grave human rights violation of the Hindus,” said Babar.

Vankwami’s argument was that Hindu men and women cannot marry a co-religionist or outside their religion until they are 18. “That is the age the custodianship of their parents ends,” he said.

The senate committee members pointed out that other religious communities had no fixed minimum age for marriage, leaving it to their reaching adulthood.

“We better leave that matter to the discretion of the members of the Hindu community,” committee chairperson Nasreen Jalil said.

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The Hindu Marriage Bill requires married couples to obtain a marriage registration certificate. A couple can be fined for not doing so under the draft law which, when passed, will apply retroactively to existing marriages.

The bill comes at a time of increased violence against Pakistan’s minorities. Some Hindus have fled to India in recent years citing discrimination and religious persecution.

Pakistan was created in 1947 after India was partitioned at the end of the British rule. Today, Hindus are said to make up more than two percent of Pakistan’s population of 182.1 million.

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