Bill Will Allow Both Marriage and Divorce
The federal government of Pakistan will formally recognize the registration of Christian marriage under the newly finalized Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill 2017, pending approval from the cabinet and Pakistani parliament.
The bill, which was drawn up by the Ministry for Human Rights with input from Hindu and Christian religious leaders, will provide amendments to the archaic laws that have governed Christian marriage in Pakistan since the seventeenth century. Mumtaz Ahmed Tavar, the Pakistani Human Rights Minister, confirmed that the draft was headed to the legislative branch of government before being forwarded to the Prime Minister then to Parliament.
Proposed Changes According to the New Bill
The proposed marriage and divorce bill will make a few changes to the existing laws, both in regard to Christian marriage and divorce.
Christian marriage was not recognized by the federal government in the old legislation. Under this new act, the marriage would not only be certified as true by legislators, it would also be officiated by government officials.
Under it, the government will appoint district-level registrar generals to oversee Christian marriages provided the couple has at least two witnesses present. A temporary registrar general can be appointed where the original one is not present to officiate a wedding ceremony.
Additionally, the bill reduces the discriminatory nature of current Pakistani Christian marriages, making it equally easy for foreign Christians to marry as native ones.
Marriage is not the only segment that the proposed draft will change. It will also touch on divorce, a contentious issue even among Christians.
After a consultation among Salvation Army, Roman Catholics, Anglican and Presbyterian leaders as well as academics and legal advisors, the Human Rights Ministry added clauses to the existing divorce law. Only a man can divorce his wife, and only for adultery. That is what the law stipulates now. Under the new bill, however, either spouse can divorce the other under nine different grounds.
The proposed bill would revolutionize Christian marriage and divorce in Pakistan should it come into law.