Pakistan’s Sindh province has passed a bill which grants Hindu women the right to remarry six months after separating from her spouse or his demise.
The Sindh Hindu Marriage Amendment Bill, 2018, which was passed on Friday, allows women in strained marriages to file for separation. The bill also states that, in case of separation, the man will have to provide for the children.
Prior to the passage of the bill, divorced or widowed Hindu women in Sindh were not legally allowed to marry a second time.
The amended bill has also prohibited bigamy, stating that a person cannot get married the second time while their first spouse still lives with them. Clause 18 of the bill says: “Any marriage solemnised after the commencement of this act is void if at the date of such marriage either party had a spouse living.”
Anyone marrying without informing their partner or by lying to them will be sentenced to either six months in jail or a fine of Rs 5,000, or both.
Speaking in the House as he presented the amendment bill on Thursday, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) parliamentary leader Nand Kumar Goklani said: “The Hindu community, especially their widows, suffer a lot because of outdated customs and traditions that don’t allow them to remarry in our society.
“We want to get rid of old and outdated customs, which is why we are going to amend the law and give rights to widows to remarry after six months of iddah (prescribed Islamic waiting period).”
Two years ago, the province passed the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act, 2016, granting the region’s three million strong Hindu community a legal framework to register their unions. Pakistan’s other main religious minority, Christians, have a law recognising their marriages since colonial times.
The bill, by setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage, also makes an attempt to tackle the pertinent issue of child marriage faced by minorities in Pakistan. A number of marriage-related issues were reported from the Hindu community, mainly from Sindh. Since there was no law in place to deal with them, jirgas and panchayats announced arbitrary decisions without considering the rights of women and children or the question of their livelihood.
Before the law was proposed, Hindu couples faced many problems in basic ventures such as opening bank accounts, applying for visas, getting national identity cards, and getting shares of property because they lacked proof of marriage.>