Pakistan province passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

Karachi (AFP) –


Lawmakers in Pakistan's southern Sindh province have passed a bill allowing the Hindu community to register their marriages, officials said, marking the first time the Muslim majority nation has enacted a law safeguarding the matrimonial rights of the religious minority.

Since the country's independence in 1947, Pakistani Hindus have not been able to acquire the legal documentation needed to register their marriages and annulments.

The bill, which was passed on Monday, will also allow the province's Hindu community to file for divorce.

Nand Kumar, a Hindu member of parliament in Sindh's assembly, praised the passage of the legislation.

"This is a very welcoming act, since 1947 we have had no law governing our marriages and related issues," Kumar told AFP on Tuesday.

"We did not have any documentary evidence of our marriages or even separation. Now at least we can register the marriages at official forums," Kumar added.

Dr Ramesh Winkwani, the chairman of Pakistan's Hindu council, told AFP that a similar bill would be tabled soon in the country's federal parliament that would allow Hindus nationwide to acquire marriage certificates.

Pakistan's Hindu community numbers around 8.2 million in the Muslim majority nation of 180 million people, with the vast majority residing in the south.

Following the end of British rule in South Asia in 1947, the sub-continent was partitioned into mainly Hindu India and the Muslim majority state of Pakistan, triggering widespread religious bloodshed in which hundreds of thousands were killed and millions displaced.

Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, where Muslims account for more than 90 percent of the population.