In what appears to be a New Year's gift for Hindu minorities in Pakistan, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights unanimously approved the much-awaited Hindu Marriages Bill on Monday.

Earlier in September, the Natio­nal Assembly had passed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, thus paving the way for the adoption of 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.

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".

The Senate committee under the chair of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil took up the bill for discussion.

Soon after the bill was approved, the committee room 4 in Parliament House echoed with jubilation as senators and officials of different ministries started thumping their desks.

Minority member in National Assembly Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani called the move a new year's gift for Hindus living in Pakistan.

"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," he said.

Top constitutional expert Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said the bill is in accordance with the essence of the Constitution.

Ahsan clarified that the bill was not in contrast with Islamic jurisprudence as Islam emphasises protection of minorities.

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