About the Authors:
Ravindranath Chowdary Namburu & Sivan Ledalla are the third year students of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
The Hindu community has been heavily discriminated against and marginalized since Pakistan achieved independence in 1947. In particular, Hindu women faced the majority of discriminatory treatment and often underwent forced conversions, abuse, and domestic oppression. The Islamic Republic has become even more fragmented in recent years with cases of suspected forced conversion. The presence of Blasphemy laws, the involvement of extremist groups, and the government giving them the free hand left Hindu women without any way to attain justice.In this regard, until two years ago, Parliament did not show any interest and largely ignored Hindu Personal Law, and in particular, the marriage law, as a legislative matter which reflects Pakistan’s widespread failure to ensure legal security for its Hindu people, the basic social institution in the family. As the first personally-owned law by Pakistani Hindus, the Hindu Marriage Act 2017 was a milestone. The research will analyze and evaluate ancient Hindu convictions about marriage, forced marriages and conversions, sexual assault on Hindu women, the 2016 Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act, and the intent of the Hindu Marriage Act of 2017.
Pakistan is officially recognized in South Asia as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where Islam is the largest and dominating religion. By Art. 2 of Pakistan’s Constitution, Islam is the state religion. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is called “The global center for political Islam.”The country attained its independence in 1947 from Britain and was called West Pakistan (now Pakistan). This country is the homeland of not only the Muslim community but also the Hindu community. After independence, the country was partitioned by British India, demanding a separate state for the Muslim majority. As a result, a large number of Hindu families migrated to India as refugees. Many Hindu families in Pakistan are found in the region called Sindh. This region is home to the majority of Hindus and also to many religious places.According to the 1998 Census report, this Muslim province comprises Hindus of about 1.85% of Pakistan’s population. But the Hindu council of Pakistan claims that there are 8 million Hindus presently living in Pakistan, constituting 4% of Pakistan’s population. The Hindus who considered Pakistan as their motherland and stayed back are facing a few major problems. Hindu women are subjected to the forcible conversion of religion, abduction, and marriage without consent, physical assault, and many more. The women belonging to the minority class are being targeted by the perpetrators of all these acts. From various incidents, we can learn that the government or state is not interested in looking into this matter, which would be a turning point for the perpetrators.
A few members of the National Assembly have introduced a special bill called The Hindu Marriage Bill, where all the wrongdoers can be put behind bars and Hindu women can attain justice in a very possible way. The bill would protect the customs of the Hindu religion, and protect and guarantee the rights of women. The bill provided proof of marriage, birth, divorce, annulment, adoption, proof of legal heirs, and various measures. As no other members of Parliament were interested in passing it, the bill was stuck. In March 2017, Pakistan’s President approved the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2017 on the advice of PM Nawaz Sharif and turned the bill into law.This law applies to all provinces of Pakistan except Sindh. Sindh has its separate legislation for Hindu marriages, i.e. the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act.
Descriptive and Analytical Legal Research Methodology isused for this particular research paper. A detailed examination of the topic is done. The data is collected from different primary and secondary sources. The sources include relevant articles, law journals, newspaper clippings, opinions, reviews, various databases, relevant statutory laws and their criticism, textbooks, video files, etc. A researcher would mainly like to clarify in a concise style the situation or case of his/her study. It is a theory-based research design generated by the collection, review, and presentation of data collected. A researcher may have information about why and how work is being carried out in a detailed research design.
The approach used for analysis is primarily descriptive. Secondary sources such as books, documents, journals, and websites were given the greatest importance. The collected data has been piled up and carefully presented. With the help of various judgments, I was able to gather some more facts. It is also a matter of analytical research where pure and applied research is conducted to understand the core concepts and find a way to solve unsolved problems. Relevant discussions were very rich and insightful and offered the right direction for conducting research. Relevant consultations and recommendations are also taken into consideration for research.
The Research Questions are as follows:
- What is the situation of Hindus in Pakistan?
- What were the reasons behind taking time for the act to be passed?
- What is the difference and similarities between The Hindu Marriage Act of Pakistan and India and how are they related?
- What are the features and measures given in protecting the rights and the customs of Hindus in the new marriage act?
- Whether abduction, forceful marriage, and religious conversions are still active? If active, then is there any security for the Hindu women?
- Why two laws were governing the marriages of Hindus (The Hindu Marriage Act of 2017 and The Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act of 2016)?
- What is the difference between the old marriage act and the amended act?
- What is the aim of the amended act?
- What are Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and how Minorities are affected bythose laws?
- How Taliban Insurgency is related to the persecution of religious minorities?
The Research Objectives are:
- To know about Hinduism in Pakistan
- Problems faced by Hindu minority women and girls
- The present legal system dealing with rights of marriage and divorce
- The process of legislation of the new amended act
- The aim, measures taken, guarantees given to minority women by the act
- The historical context and present situation of the Hindu community in Pakistan
- Marriage rituals of Hindus before the act came into force
- Interpretation of the act
- The reasons behind the proposal of the act
Historical Context of Hindus in Pakistan
At one point in time, the Hindu population was very large in Sindh province. But this was not the case after partition. A large number of people migrated to India. The situation here in Sindh grew worse for Hindus, leading to massacres against religious minorities after the partition of India in August 1947. As a result, most of the Hindus were forced to become refugees. Several constitutional restrictions and social pressure were faced by Hindus who remained in Pakistan.
The March 1949 objective Resolution allows non-Muslims the freedom to freely profess and practice their religion as one of the central Constitutional documents of the country. These provisions were used in 1956, 1962, and the 1973 constitutions. Despite all this, the Hindu group was targeted and viewed as scapegoats, anti-State elements, and anti-Islamic elements, who did not have access to equal education, jobs, and social progress. The Hindus in Pakistan are also often subjected to outbursts of anti-Hindu feelings triggered by violations of Muslims’ rights in India.
The Babri-masjid incident (December 1992) was a tragic example of the outrage over the destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya (India) by the Hindus and their properties in Pakistan. It is estimated that approximately 120 Hindu temples in various parts of Pakistan were demolished between 2nd and 8th December 1992. Groups of frenzied men entered these temples on several occasions, destroyed the idols of revered Hindu deities and devotions, took their jewelry, and made charity boxes that held donations. The Hindu group also received physical assaults. Many Hindus, including a family of six who have been burned in Loralia, have been killed. There was no compensation for life and property loss.
Hindu Marriage Act, 2017
On 9th March 2017, the Hindu Marriage Bill was passed by Pakistan’s parliament. “Kamran Michael, who is the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N’s) Christian lawmaker and the Minister of Human Rights, reiterated that there was no law to regulate the registration of Hindu marriages and ancillary matters; and hence, there was a constitutional obligation to legitimately safeguard the rights and interests of minorities”. This act was implemented with the basic motive of safeguarding women who were being violated. One of the members of the committee stated that “the Ministry of Human Rights also took the initiative to protect the rights of minorities after obtaining a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Religious Affairs”.
It acts as a milestone as it empowers the Hindu woman and also helps the Hindu husband and wife to have a record of the documents for validation of the marriage in the eyes of the law. It is of utmost importance because it provides for the terms on which one can enter into a marriage. It also states the judicial proceedings for divorce and the grounds for divorce on which one can seek divorce. “The Act also provides for judicial separation, which entails keeping the marriage intact, but both parties are no longer obliged to cohabit with each other.” “The union of Hindu male and Hindu female is solemnized under this Act and includes the marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act following the law, religion, and customs having the force of law relating to Hindu people.”
Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act of 2016
Sindh, home to most Hindu people, was the first region to introduce legislation on the registration of Hindu marriages and other marriages which, through the Sindh Hindu Marriage Bill, were not part of the Muslim community. Later, the Sindh Hindu Marriage Bill was enacted as the “Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act, 2016”. It was realized that the Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act would provide a platform for the Hindus to register their marriages and obtain validation for their marriages. This Act was appreciated and was given importance as it was a step forward in the protection of the minority community of Pakistan.
This act requires the age limit to be 18 years and the witnesses should be present for the completion of a valid Hindu marriage. “The bill moved in the assembly by Parliamentary Affairs Minister NisarKhuhroapplies to the entire province of Sindh and helps observe how the Eighteenth Amendment has allowed provinces to take up marriage and minority affairs under their jurisdiction and make laws.” This Act was declared valid for the whole Sindh region.
Analysis of the Act
The customs and rituals of Hindus are something thathas been given importance in the Hindu community. In Ramayana, the wife is referred to as the better half of the husband. The wife is called “dharmapatni,” which means a friend and advisor to be associated with the husband in all religious rites and ceremonies. Marriage is considered to be a life-long bonding between husband and wife. A Hindu wedding is known as – “The union of a Hindu male and Hindu female solemnized under this Act and includes the marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act following the law, religion, and customs having the force of law relating to Hindu people.”
The act is only valid for marriages between two Hindus. The Constitution of Pakistan abides and follows Shariah, The Hindu Marriage Law respects religion and adheres to the Hindu-compressed Law. The Act states about Shaadiparaat, which is the certificate that the parties will obtain as proof of their marriage. It is a document thatis similar to the Nikahnama. The act speaks about the conditions for a valid Hindu marriage, the procedure for registrations, provision for divorce, divorce by mutual consent, legitimacy of the child in case of a void/voidable marriage also about the punishment which will be given when the conditions for Hindu marriage has been contravened.
The reality of forced conversions (Urd. jabranmazhabtabdili) and forced marriages (Urd. jabrishadi) in Pakistan
Crimes against women, including rape, honor killings, acid attacks, domestic abuse, forced conversion, forced marriage, child marriage, and discrimination, remain a severe and present problem in Pakistan.Abuse and inequalities toward women are deeply rooted in the past of Pakistan, which is also used to justify the present oppression as part of the rituals and customs. Women from religious minorities, in particular, are regularly subjected to abductions, forced conversions, and forced marriage. They are not only subject to severe gender discrimination, but also religious violence and persecution. Cases demonstrate how minors of Hindu or Christian children, including converted and married Muslim women, disappear from their homes or workplaces. These cases interrupt communities and are seen as Muslim extremists attempting to spread Islam through illegal practices in minority communities. When kidnapping and rape reports are made public, abductors sometimes marry the victim in an attempt to escape suspicion of sexual assault.
Taking women’s agency into account, we can find out two possible ways of conversion. First, Hindu women accept Islam oftheir own will due to the inherent attraction put forward by Muslim religious rights. Secondly, Muslim predators aim to expand Islam by pressuring women of the minority class to convert and marry.
These conversions are often assisted by influential shrines, seminaries, clerics, and local politicians. Sometimes clerics, who are offering the money and housing to new Muslims, monitor the arrangements surrounding forced conversions. In Islam, the conversion of a Hindu into Islam is considered an accomplishment, and a blessing is earned. Every year more and more cases of rape and forced marriages of minors are registered.
The failure of the Sindh criminal law (protection of minorities) bill
The bill’s denial comes at a time when there was a drastic increase in cases of young women and girls being abducted and forcefully married in Pakistan. As this was growing serious, on 16 July 2019, a resolution in the Sindh Assembly was debated and passed unanimously after the objections of some legislators.
The report of the Public Understanding Centre for Faith, Edward Cadbury, states that the plan was effectively blocked by Islamist groups and political parties’ mobilization. On 5th December 2016, Dr. Abdul QayyumSoomro, Special Assistant Chairman of the Minister for Religious Affairs, was met by an Ulema party, including the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), to call the bill in contravention of the core principles of Islam. In Karachi, religious parties began a negative campaign about the bill to press the parliament to abolish it. The Ulema-e-IslamiJamiat (JI) argued that people who converted to Islam should not have an age limit. If the legislature did not revoke the law, religious parties threatened to lay siege to Sindh.
The Governor had returned the bill to the Assembly and asked it to be “review.” His main concern was the clause condemning the forceful conversion and marriages of minor girls, and he said the illegal and inhumane practice must be stopped at any cost, stating, “When Hazrat Ali (the fourth caliph and successor to Prophet Muhammad) can convert to Islam at a young age, why can’t Hindu girls?” The governor’s criticisms refer to chapter III of the bill, entitled “Age of Conversion,” which doesn’t allow minor girls to convert to a different religion. Sec. 4 (1) states, “No person shall be deemed to have changed their religion until they attain the age of majority.” Also, sec. 4 (2) stipulates that “any minor who claims to have changed their religion before attaining majority shall not be deemed to have changed their religion and no action shall be taken against him or for any such claim or action made by the minor.” Political groups of Islam have also objected to section 11 of the 2016 Bill, which states “21 days for the alleged adult victim to independently consider whether or not their decision to convert to another religion was forced before it initiates a forced conversion case.”
At the beginning of April 2019, Nand Kumar Goklani, a member of the Grand Democratic Alliance, submitted the latest version of the Protection of Minorities Bill, updated in line with the Governor’s objections. The 2019 Act seems to omit the prohibition of child conversion in Section 4 and allows a judge to issue an order to prevent the conversion of children or marriage and “upon the final decision of conviction of the accused, the conversion and marriage of children (if any) shall stand nullified.”
Expansion of Extremist groups across Pakistan leading to Persecution of Minorities
In a country of continuous agitating violence, the southern province of Sindh, home to Hindu merchants who belong to a significant minority, has the name ‘Tolerance and Diversity of Pakistan’. However, as Islamist groups have spread across Pakistan along with the Taliban insurgency’s rising intensity, they are entering Sindh deeper as well. While prohibited by the state, these groups are actively exploiting the vulnerabilities in Pakistan’s educational and legislative codes in an attempt to persecute minorities and spread their radical Sunni Muslim brand. Many Hindu temples have been damaged in the last few months.
Other Sunni groups are also expanding in Sindh. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity group recently identified by the United States as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization, runs a network of seminaries and relief efforts during natural disasters. Since March, 12 attacks on Hindu and Sikh temples across the province have been reported by the police. Hindu leaders accused Muslim organizations of attempting to force Hindu girls into Islam.
Blasphemy Laws and allegations on Hindus
The law of blasphemy is considered another source of discrimination against religious minorities. The blasphemy law, in force under the Pakistani penal code, refers to the prohibition of insulting or showing contempt towards the Prophet Mohammad and states (295-C) “Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.”Evidently, this law is not appropriate in terms of mens rea as well as actusreus, violating the principle of legality. “Sentences for these offenses range from fines to long terms of imprisonment, and in the case of defamation of the Prophet Muhammad, a mandatory death sentence.” The law thus acts as a legal excuse for persecuting religious minorities or any other individual by false allegations in the pursuit of personal sectarian conflicts or disputes.
In March 2017, a Hindu man from the province of Balochistan, Prakash Kumar, was arrested on charges of blasphemy. The police said that they filed a case against the accused after the arrest of a mobile phone with blasphemous material allegedly posted by the defendant. For further interrogation about the incident, a local court sent the defendant to prison. A mob soon came to the police station in Hub town to demand that Kumar be returned to them to “punish” him. The crowd became aggressive when law enforcement refused. The police managed with tear gas shelling and aerial fire to disperse the crowd and also captured a large number of protesters. A teenager was killed in the violence, according to the police.In Pakistan, blasphemy, which is subject to the death penalty, is a controversial topic and often triggers mass violence.
Mass Conversions of Hindu families in Matli
Hundreds of Hindu families have converted to Islam in recent years with the help of courtesy seminaries, mosques, and self-styled preachers. They were converted on a largescale with their own will to have a beneficial life, as most of the families who converted were Hindu working laborers in Matli, a town in Pakistan. Converts said that they could easily get watan cards, support, and land and support from the agency to help them walk across the other side. A self-styled Hindu preacher who spent almost 15 years preaching says that “We did not want to publicize this. I just want these families to get Watan Cards or some money. We were told by the National Database and Registration Authority in Matli that it would be easier to get this done if these people were Muslims.”
These benefits are not available to everyone. They are only available to Hindus who converted to Islam from the Bheel caste and only by a small group of preachers. Fresh converts say that they were nothing when they were Hindus. Rs 5,000 and a copy of the Quran and housing for three to four months are given to a newly converted family. They are instructed during this period to live their lives according to the Islamic code. They are provided with religious education. A hospital and an ambulance are available to transport serious patients. There is a doctor on call. A second seminary in the town trains women converts.A former Hindu, Baba Deen Mohammad Shaikh, also carried out conversions. He has been converting about 10,008 Hindu families to Islam as a mission since 1989.
Differences and Similarities between Hindu Marriage act of 2017 and Sindh Hindu marriage registration act of 2016
Registration of Marriage is different in both acts. According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 2017, “The solemnization of every Hindu marriage shall be registered following the provisions of this Act. Such registration shall take place within fifteen days of the solemnization of a Hindu marriage.”And by the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act of 2016, “Every marriage solemnized under this Act shall be registered with the Union Council/Ward or any other Municipal Authority where the marriage ceremony takes place, within 45 days of the solemnization.” Here, the number of days of solemnization of marriage is different.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 2017 consists of a clause thatis similar to the Sindh Hindu Marriage Registration Act of 2016, i.e., the marriage will be terminated as soon as one of the parties (either the husband or the wife) converts to a different religion. Both parties should be 18 years or above. In both acts, there is a requirement for witnesses to be present at the event of the solemnization of the marriage.
Comparative study of Hindu marriage act of India and Pakistan
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (India)
- “A Hindu man or a Hindu woman can marry a Hindu irrespective of their caste (the person can be Buddhist, Jain or Sikhs).”
- “Bigamy hasbeen declared to be invalid.”
- “A provision for judicial separation, separation of marriage, and decree of marriage nullity has been made.”
- “The court has the power to resolve the disputes in case of any dispute regarding marriages or divorce.”
- “The courts have also been empowered to decide on the matter of maintenance or the guardianship of the child from the marriage which has been declared void.”
- “The minimum age for the girl has been fixed to be 18 yrs. Whereas, the minimum age for the boy has been fixed to be 21 yrs.”
- “The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also defines the concept of ‘full blood’ ‘half-blood’ and ‘uterine blood’.”
- “It speaks about conditions of marriage which cover the ambit of insanity/epilepsy, unsoundness of mind and being incapable of giving a valid consent.” The provision of when can a divorced person can remarry again – “When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce and either there is no right of appeal against the decree or, if there is such a right of appeal, the time for appealing has expired without an appeal having been presented, or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed, it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again.”
Hindu marriage Act, 2017 (Pakistan)
This is the first personal law for the Hindu community in Pakistan.
- Earlier, this act was applicable in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Now, it has been enforced in the states of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan.
- It will stop the forced conversion of Hindu women.
- The marriage certificate obtained by the marriage registrar is known as “shaadiparat”.
- Both the parties should be of 18 years or above 18 years of age.
- “Registration of Hindu marriages. – (l) The solemnization of every Hindu marriage shall be registered in accordance with the provisions of this Act. Such registration shall take place within a period of fifteen days of solemnization of Hindu marriage.”
- It also speaks about the financial security of the wife and the children.
- “Separated person may marry again-When a Hindu marriage has been annulled or terminated by a decree of nullity or decree of termination, as the case may be and the time for appeal has expired, it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage so terminated to marry again after expiry of six months from the final decision.”
- “The punishment for the contravention of the conditions given for a Hindu marriage are subject to simple imprisonment which may extend to six months but not less than three months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both.”
- One of the very important sections is which states that the termination of marriage was instituted.
Recommendations and Conclusion
There is still a long way to go to ensure that the Hindu community in Pakistan is brought to justice. There are still instances of injustice in which people suffer. There has been no proper enforcement action. Pakistan’s government should take action and be responsible for the obstacles to the growth of the Hindu community in Pakistan. In order to regulate their marriage, the President should make sure that Pakistani Hindus have more personal laws. Laws should be inspired to protect the individual while preserving the legitimate rights of Hindu families. Hindu women must ensure the validity of the marriage contract. All the above changes should not be human rights violators. In Pakistan, the minority Hindu community needs to be covered by more flexible laws.
Hindus have sought, after independence, to get their own marriage law, which allows them to solemnize and register their marriages legally. This landmark act now highlights minority rights, shielding the Hindus who have lived in Pakistan for years waiting for this breakthrough. A bright light emerges from Hindu-Muslim ties with the country’s legislature to safeguard the interests and rights of minority communities in both legislative and customary law. It is hoped that such laws would enable Hindu women as well as men to fight daily oppression and live in Pakistan as equal citizens. The marriage certificates will now be helpful to Hindus to prove their marriage as soon as they are required, which will definitely support Hindu women as they hope the incidence of forced marriages, rape, abduction, and forced religious conversions will be lower. This legislation has empowered Hindus to raise their voice, as society steps forward to better and equal lawfulness.
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