Zahid Hussain Khan, Islamabad
Updated: February 19, 2021 04:52 AM GMT
Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazarai addresses the Interfaith Conference for Young Women on Feb. 18. (Photo: Zahid Hussain Khan/UCA News)
The government of Pakistan has finalized the draft of a new bill to address the long-standing demand of the Christian minority to address laws governing marriage and divorce.
“We have prepared the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill by consulting relevant stakeholders. They have acknowledged that there were several issues which were required to be resolved,” said Shireen Mazarai, human rights minister.
Mazari made the announcement while speaking at the Interfaith Conference for Young Women organized by the Catholic Diocese of Peshawar, the Church of Pakistan, Jamia Ashrafi Islamic Seminary and the Interfaith Harmony Council on Feb. 18.
“Our government has taken a rights-based approach to protect the rights of minorities guaranteed by the constitution. Women and minorities are among the most vulnerable sections of society and thus require special safeguards to ensure that their rights are protected,” she said.
She said that the beauty of Pakistan lies in the diversity of people from various religious and social backgrounds, which also enriches society.
“Islam gives us the responsibility to respect all religions. Pakistan is among the countries which provides personal laws to minorities, including the Hindu Marriage Bill,” she added.
The minister said the government had also taken some legislative measures to protect women’s rights such as the Anti-Rape Ordinance and the Forced Conversion Marriages Bill.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council and the prime minister’s aide on minority affairs, said women and girls play an important role in the reformation process.
“The constitution of Pakistan also provides equal rights to non-Muslims. There is no concept of forced marriages in Islam. Minorities should not feel scared or threatened. The state will go after the elements who are trying to harm them,” he said.
“We expect a positive role from human rights groups and non-government organizations and invite them to constructive talks.”
The proposed Christian Marriage and Divorce Act, if passed by parliament, will replace the Christian Divorce Act, 1869, and the Christian Marriage Act, 1872.
Four million Christians, who account for around 5 percent of Pakistan's population, have been deeply affected by the absence of laws governing their marriages and divorces.
The bill will amend 140-year-old Christian personal laws.
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.