ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Human Rights has decided to forward the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill 2017 to the law ministry to be vetted, before it is forwarded to the cabinet.

The decision was made by Human Rights Minister Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar after a meeting with a delegation of Hindu and Christian community representatives.

Minister of State for Human Rights Barrister Usman Jamali, who also attended the meeting, read out several objections and amendments proposed by Christians that the ministry has received.

Meeting participants unanimously agreed that the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act 1870 need to be amended and upgraded.

The delegation included a Christian priest, lawyers, academics and civil society members, who recommended that the bill’s provisions should be in accordance with the Bible.

They asked for Christian marriage laws to be implemented at the provincial level, and the minister and state minister agreed that resolutions from the provinces would be sought to ensure that uniform laws are implemented across the country.

The minister was told by the delegation members that the draft Marriage and Divorce Bill has been finalised after a consensus among all segments of the Christian community, including churches of all the mainstream denominations.

The bill was finalised after several rounds of discussions among various segments of the Christian community and caters to current needs.

There are various lacunae in the 1870 act, including a provision that says a marriage can only be solemnised before sunset, as well as other issues that have become redundant with time. The draft also raises the marriageable age for the bride and groom from 16 to 18 years.

Mr Jamali said the ministry will forward the bill to the law ministry to be vetted. Mr Tarar said the ministry would follow the process until the draft bill is approved by the National Assembly.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2017

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