Pakistan’s lower house of parliament on September 26 passed a landmark bill which now gives its small Hindu minority community the right to register their marriages.
This was the last major hurdle on the way to enacting a law which is aimed at protecting women’s rights in the country.
According to Pakistani activists, Hindu women have been disproportionately targeted for abduction, forced conversions and rape because their Hindu marriages were never officially recognised in Pakistan and thus not provable in court.
The Bill, which was under debate for past 10 months and was finally passed by the National Assembly on September 26.
The Senate is now expected to pass the law without any significant delay.
In Pakistan, approximately 1.6% population are Hindus. Till now they have had no legal mechanisms to register their marriages.
This is for the first time since independence from Britain in 1947 that they would be allowed to register their marriage in Pakistan.
Under this new bill, the minimum age for marriage for Hindus at 18 while the minimum legal age for marriage for citizens of other religions is 18 for men and 16 for women.
According to Zohra Yusuf, who is head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan as proof of marriage would be a huge help for the community as it would offer greater protection to Hindu women.
“Once marriages are registered, at least they have certain rights that are ensured. Widows, in particular, were disadvantaged, being unable to prove marriage to their husbands in order to gain government welfare benefits.”