Hindu marriage laws

Published May 8, 2023

THE negligible implementation of the Hindu Marriage Act, 2017, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and KP, reeks of our institutionalised prejudice. (Sindh has its own law on the subject.) Last week, at an event organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, activists expressed concern that marginalised sections were ignorant about laws that protect them, such as the opacity in the Hindu Marriage Act about who is authorised to solemnise Hindu nuptials. Signed into law six years ago, the edict’s journey has been paradoxical. Although a comprehensive document which breaks with severe traditions on many counts, its implementation has so far merely replaced a marriage photograph with a certificate. The majority of women from a frozen-out community in Pakistan continue to live without official documentation, consent and inheritance, and submit to underage marriage as well as social and domestic violence.

Meanwhile, where the law rescues Hindu women from stringent social confines, the Act’s clause 12(iii) declares that a marriage will be annulled if any of the spouses convert to another religion. This enables rampant exploitation and gives cover to the crimes of kidnapping and forced conversions of married women validated by fake certificates to prove consent to law-enforcement authorities. Moreover, the caste matrix is intrinsic to the Hindu community. Inter-caste marriages take place in the shadow of persecution, especially for the woman regardless of her place in the hierarchy. These intricacies require lawmakers to revisit the law and guarantee protection, equity and freedom to women in particular and lower-caste men. Pakistan took 69 years to legalise the most important social contract in a society for its Hindu citizens. The law needs to be pushed forward with other legislation centred around security and crime control. The state has come under repeated international flak for its record of failure in protecting and empowering minorities. Ground realities need to transform with the implementation of minority laws and widespread awareness to reflect change.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Wheat price crash
Updated 20 May, 2024

Wheat price crash

What the government has done to Punjab’s smallholder wheat growers by staying out of the market amid crashing prices is deplorable.
Afghan corruption
20 May, 2024

Afghan corruption

AMONGST the reasons that the Afghan Taliban marched into Kabul in August 2021 without any resistance to speak of ...
Volleyball triumph
20 May, 2024

Volleyball triumph

IN the last week, while Pakistan’s cricket team savoured a come-from-behind T20 series victory against Ireland,...
Border clashes
19 May, 2024

Border clashes

THE Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier has witnessed another series of flare-ups, this time in the Kurram tribal district...
Penalising the dutiful
19 May, 2024

Penalising the dutiful

DOES the government feel no remorse in burdening honest citizens with the cost of its own ineptitude? With the ...
Students in Kyrgyzstan
Updated 19 May, 2024

Students in Kyrgyzstan

The govt ought to take a direct approach comprising convincing communication with the students and Kyrgyz authorities.