ISLAMABAD: A minority rights group on Wednesday lauded the government’s efforts to update the existing Christian marriage and divorce acts which were formulated more than 140 years ago.
Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club, the members of National Lobbying Delegation (NLD) for minority rights said the Christian Divorce Act was enacted in 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act was enacted in 1872, but no amendment has been made in them.
“These laws were not only in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan but universal human rights framework as well,” Romana Bashir, executive director, Peace and Development Foundation from Rawalpindi said.
She is part of the NLD group that has been working for new Christian personal laws since 2016.
She along with other members of the NLD highlighted that the majority of Christian clergy were in favour of the new law, and it was framed in accordance with the Bible and the principals of Christianity.
Ayra Indrias, head of women desk at the Church of Pakistan, lecturer at Kinnaird College Women University said that the new bill will benefit the Christians, especially women.
“Several clauses in the existing law do not even fit in the society such as 13-year-old girl’s marriage, and the draft has enhanced the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years,” Mr Indrias added.
She said the proposed bill also takes the Christian family laws from the civil courts to the family courts.
It was also highlighted that Article 25 of Constitution of Pakistan says: “all citizens are equal before the law … [and] there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex”, but the laws made 19th century did allow females to seek separation from the spouse.
She also cited several other international laws that were being violated under the Christian Divorce Act’ 1869 and Christian Marriage Act 1872.
Responding to a query about the right of women to seek divorce she said that there were several reasons that a woman would want a separation.
“There are chances that the in-laws turn out to be cruel and even physically abuse the daughter-in-law like beating her, not giving her food, etc.,” she said adding, “Should we wait to see our girl being dying slowly or seek a divorce. Besides, a boy can marry a girl through fraud so the girl has the right to seek divorce.”
The NLD members also expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmiri and prayed for the residents of Indian occupied Kashmir who were facing persecution at the hands of Indian forces.
Those who participated in the press conference included Dr Sabir Michael, Karachi University Assistant Professor, Jai Parkash Murani, journalist from Hyderabad, M. Parkash lawyer from Hyderabad and Pushpa Kumari, member Sindh Human Rights Commission from Tando Jam,
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019