Pak: Hindus protest for law to register marriages

Pakistan`s minority Hindu community has protested the prolonged delay in the approval of a law to register their marriages.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s minority Hindu community has protested the prolonged delay in the approval of
a law to register their marriages, saying the lack of
legislation affected the inheritance rights of women.

A large group of Hindus joined a protest outside the
National Press Club in Islamabad yesterday and shouted slogans
against the government.

They also performed a mock Hindu marriage to protest the
delay in the approval of the Hindu Marriage Registration Act
by parliament.

Shakuntala Devi, an activist of the Scheduled Caste
Rights Movement, said Hindu women had suffered for more than
six decades due to the absence of any law to protect their
matrimonial rights.

"There are no family laws for Hindus. Their marriages are
not registered. The women cannot claim their inheritance
rights as they cannot produce any evidence of their marriage
in court," she told the media.

There were cases of married Hindu women being kidnapped
while their husbands were unable to approach the court because
they had no documentary evidence of their marriage.

"Women cannot file for divorce nor can they claim custody
of their children as men often deny the marriage in court,"
Shakuntala Devi said.

There were also cases of Hindu women being abducted and
married off to non-Hindus and even this phenomenon goes
unchallenged because there is no law to protect the women, she

"The most challenging task is to get our National
Identity Cards. We have to bribe the staff to get the NIC and
sometimes, we cannot stay in a hotel because we are unable to
produce a marriage registration certificate," she said.

Over 100 members of the minority Hindu community from
across Pakistan joined yesterday`s protest that was organised
by SCRM and Action Aid.

Some of the protesters carried placards with their
demands and slogans like `No more delay to marriage

"What they are demanding is just documentation. It has
nothing to do with religion," said Amir Nadeem, a lawyer who
joined the protest.

He listed several incidents in which Hindu women were
denied their legal rights only because they did not have any
documents to prove their marriage.

Shakuntala Devi said Hindu women were "constantly
victimised" as were deprived of basic social, political and
economic rights in the absence of a marriage registration law.

"It has been over four years that we have been waging a
struggle for our rights. In 2011, a bill was presented in the
National Assembly for a law to register Hindu marriages but so
far there has been no progress," she said.

All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement chief Haroon Sarab
Diyal said the Hindus prepared the draft legislation in 2009.

"The draft was prepared after extensive research on
prevailing Hindu marriage laws in India and Nepal and it was
made according to the Pakistani constitution but it was never
passed by parliament," he said.

The same draft is pending with the Human Rights Ministry
but landlords and some influential members of the Hindu
community, who want the `panchayat` system to remain in place,
were creating hurdles in its passage, Diyal claimed.

He also contended that Hindu lawmakers should be directly
elected instead of being "selected" by political parties.