ucanews.com reporter, Karachi
Updated: February 18, 2016 10:11 AM GMT
A Pakistani Hindu bride and groom during their marriage ceremony in Karachi. (Photo by AFP)
A Pakistan parliamentary committee has agreed to revise a Hindu marriage bill after an outcry from minority lawmakers who say one of its clauses will legalize and accelerate forced conversions.
The clause in the marriage act said that a Hindu marriage would be annulled if one of the partners converted.
"Termination of marriage due to religious conversion is a serious matter and it could accelerate the dangerous trend of forced religious conversions," the Pakistan Hindu Council said in a Feb. 17 statement.
Sen. Farhatullah Babar, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, said the clause amounted to promoting forced conversions not only of young unmarried girls but also of married Hindu women.
Amid opposition from Hindu lawmakers, the National Assembly's Standing Committee approved the marriage bill last week.
The forced conversion of girls has been a grave concern for Hindus in Sindh province, home to a majority of Pakistan's Hindu population. In most cases Hindu girls are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married to Muslim men.
Almost 1,000 girls in Sindh are forcibly converted each year, said the Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, a Hindu representative group. Subsequently large numbers of Hindus have sought asylum in neighboring Hindu-majority India.
There are about 200,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan currently living in India, The Hindu reported last year.
Marriage law needed
Unlike other religions in Pakistan, there has been no marriage law for the Hindu community since the creation of country in 1947. This has led to a multitude of problems, such as those related to marriage registrations, obtaining national identity cards, visas and property transfers.
The marriage act in its new form will offer the Hindu community some protection against forced conversion and harassment by police. It would also enable Hindus to settle other issues such as divorce and inheritance.
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