The government of Pakistan has finalized a draft of a new bill to respond to the Christian minority’s longstanding demand to address laws governing marriage and divorce.
âWe prepared the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill in consultation with relevant stakeholders. They recognized that there were several issues that needed to be resolved, âsaid Shireen Mazarai, Minister of Human Rights.
Mazari made the announcement during an address 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 February 18.
âOur government has taken a rights-based approach to protect constitutionally guaranteed minority rights. Women and minorities are among the most vulnerable segments of society and therefore need special guarantees to ensure that their rights are protected, âshe said.
She said that the beauty of Pakistan is in the diversity of people from various religious and social backgrounds which also enriches the society.
âIslam gives us the responsibility to respect all religions. Pakistan is among the countries that provide personal laws for minorities, including the Hindu Marriage Bill, âshe added.
The minister said the government has also taken legislative measures to protect women’s rights, such as the Rape Ordinance and the Forced Conversion Marriage Bill.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, Chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council and Assistant Prime Minister for Minority Affairs, said women and girls play an important role in the reform process.
âPakistan’s constitution also grants equal rights to non-Muslims. There is no concept of forced marriages in Islam. Minorities should not feel afraid or threatened. The state will attack the elements that try to harm them, âhe said.
âWe expect a positive role from human rights groups and non-governmental organizations and invite them to constructive discussions. ”
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The Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill, if passed by parliament, will replace the Christian Divorce Act of 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act of 1872.
Four million Christians, who make up about 5 percent of Pakistan’s population, have been deeply affected by the absence of laws governing their marriages and divorces.
The bill will change 140-year-old Christian personal laws.
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