Representatives of Pakistan Christian National Party criticized the current Christian Divorce Law in Pakistan due to its restricted criteria for divorce, which allows divorce to Christian spouses only in case of adultery. Furthermore, the party representing Pakistan’s Christian minority required a separate law of inheritance permitting Christian female inheritors an equal share in property.
The 145-year-old Christian Divorce Act, enforced in 1869 in undivided India under British rule, was accepted by the government of an autonomous Pakistan and still exists unchanged, in its old form.
According to Section 10 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869, a husband can register an appeal for divorce only in case of adultery: “any husband may present a petition to the court praying that his marriage may be dissolved on the ground that his wife, has, since the solemnization thereof, been guilty of adultery.”
Likewise, under the 1869 Divorce Act, the Christian wife is restricted in her reasons for filing a divorce. Section 10 of the Act says that “any wife may present a petition to the district court or high court praying that her marriage may be dissolved on the ground that, since the solemnization thereof, her husband has exchanged his profession of Christianity for the profession of some other religion, and gone through a form of marriage with another woman; or has been guilty of incestuous adultery, marriage with another woman with adultery, or of bigamy with adultery, or of rape, sodomy or bestiality, or of adultery coupled with cruelty and desertion.”
Speaking to The News, Pakistan Christian National Party Director Joseph Francis said the law forces Christian spouses to make false accusations of adultery in court. Francis further told it desecrated Christian values as put down down in the Holy Bible; since Christians were instructed to always speak the truth irrespective of the situations they confronted in their daily lives.
The Pakistani Christian leader spoke to The News that while various laws had been revised to address variations taking place in Pakistani society; the laws applying to Christian marriage and divorce go on unchanged since colonial times. He insisted minority parliamentarians in Pakistan to introduce modifications and update the laws according to the modern times.
Joseph Francis said a great number of countries with Christian populations officially permitted Christian men and women to register for divorce on grounds such as differences in personalities and incompatibility. Pakistan’s Christian women, claimed by their ex- husbands to have had adulterous affairs, have to tolerate the substance of social disgrace and discrimination, he added.
Answering to claims of changes in Divorce Law, PML-N MPA and Parliamentary Secretary of Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Tariq Masih told The News the concept of divorce is against Biblical lessons and could not be involved in the law. He told Christian spouses should turn to their religious heads and resolve their issues through a process of settlement and reconciliation.