The Issue of Divorce Divides Pakistan’s Christian Marriage law Debate

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The issue of divorce is molding as a prickly issue, as Pakistan hopes to upgrade its 145-year-old Christian marriage laws drawn up amid British times.

The Issue of Divorce Divides Pakistan's Christian Marriage law Debate

On Oct. 25, delegation of Christian leaders, ladies activists and human rights campaigners met with Pakistani Minister for Human Rights, Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar, to examine new provision in the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2017.

Marriage and divorce are presently secured by the Christian Marriage Act of 1872 and the Christian Divorce Act, authorized in 1869. Besides that the administration needs to review the enactment as a few arrangements are viewed as old, excessively inflexible and unjustifiable, biased against women and smacking of colonial rule.

“The ministry will forward the proposed Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2017 to the federal Law Ministry for vetting,” Tarar told the delegation. “The bill will be tabled in the national assembly for approval once it is approved by the law ministry in line with the recommendations of the Christian community.”

The Christian delegation requested that all provision in the bill be will accordance with Bible, an announcement by the ministry said.

In a study of family laws for religious minorities distributed a year ago, According to Catholic bishop’s and Chairperson of National Commission for Justice and Peace (NJCP), domestic violence and sexual violence, mental or terminal physical illness, and intentionally not fulfilling any financial, emotional or physical obligations are reasonable grounds for annulment of a marriage. The proposals were fused in a joint accommodation a year ago by eight Pakistan standard houses of worship for the proposed new enactment.

“We don’t support divorce, but there are several provisions for the annulment of marriage in Canon Law. For example, if someone is kidnapped or hiding his impotency to get married, we believe that matrimony never took place,” as told by Bishop Joseph Arshad, Chairperson of the NCJP.

Ayra Inderias,a female activist of the Christian delegation, referred to perplexity among political and religious leaders for the deferral of the proposed bill.

“The women lawmakers support other grounds for divorce yet the Christian government officials are taking a hard-line. Church of Pakistan bishops are divided on this matter and the Canon Law of the Catholic Church is too a long way from the substances on the ground,” she said.

Asha Thama, an representative of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that human rights issues must not be disregarded in the Marriage and Divorce Bill.

“Unlike the past, new socio-economic realities have emerged which need to be viewed along modern lines regarding marriage as well as divorce,” Thama said. “The state must take responsibility for every citizen irrespective of his or her faith and should guarantee their fundamental rights in any legislation.”

“There are many justified grounds for annulment of marriage other than adultery. In some cases, some people go abroad for jobs and don’t return for years,” he said. “The legislation should be done in a way that it doesn’t hurt religious sentiments and ensures the rights of women, widows and children.”

Jennifer Jag Jivan, women’s rights activist also supported the NCJP recommendations on the new bill.

As per the proposed Marriage Bill 2017, the base age for marriage is 18 years for both male and females. The assent of a parent or watchman to wed has been overlooked as a base age has been set.

The new bill additionally proposes punishments for false promises, assertions, notices and declarations.

The current Christian Divorce Act has just a couple of justification for divorce; incest and bigamy.

The new bill covers different issues for reason for disintegration of a marriageinfectious diseases and infertility. The bill recommends that preparatory therapeutic examination be obligatory before solemnization of marriage, as a careful step.