ISLAMABAD: April 9, 2017. (By Shamim Mahmood) Christian leadership agreed to bring reforms in the Marriage and Divorce acts to protect women rights. A clergy, parliamentarians and civil society have agreed to bring amendments to Christian Marriages Act 1872 and the Divorce Acts of 1862 of the constitutions of Pakistan.
A national level consultation of religious leaders, civil society and Christian parliamentarians was held to discuss Christian Marriage and divorce Acts. Senator Kamran Michael, Federal Minster for Human Rights stated that the Government is aware of the need for greater protection and promotion of minority rights whether it is legislation, education, health, nutrition or violence against them. He informed that Christian Family matters among the Christian community are dealt with by the Christian Marriages Act of 1872 and the Divorce Act of 1862. Since both the Acts are centuries old and need to be reviewed as certain provisions became outdated; they smack of colonial rule. Talking to the UCANews Senator Kamran Michael said the incumbent government is committed to protect the rights of every citizens of Pakistan especially women, children and minorities. He said to facilitate Christian community across the country, Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) has obtained Resolutions from Provincial Governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan to regulate matter pertaining to Christian Marriage and divorce. He also referred first national consultation held in August, 2016 wherein the same bills were thoroughly examined.
Mr. Sharafat Ali Chaudhry, Legal consultant, MoHR presented the Bill and stated that in these drafts, it has been proposed that the registration of marriage will be responsibility of the State and solemnization will be done by the Church. Age of marriage both for male and female has been proposed to be 18 years, and both male and female must be from Christian background, he further informed. Under the present applicable law of Christian Divorce Act 1862, there is only one ground of divorce available which is raising allegations against the chastity of the spouse, however, in the proposed draft, other grounds of the divorce have been proposed for the parties. Legal Consultant pointed out difference of opinion among different Christian religious communities. A detail discussion was held and it was proposed that more consultations are needed to have a unified legislation. It was also proposed that Representatives of NADRA may also be invited during next consultations as registration of marriages is responsibility of NADRA and Christian community is facing problem in getting marriage certificates.
A detailed discussion was also held to discuss amendments in divorce. It was informed that there has been a bill in the national assembly related to health issues wherein amendment has also been proposed in the Christian Bills. Legal consultant elaborated ground for divorce and raised the issue that mental and physical illness as well as cruelty shall be included in the grounds for divorce. Numbers of ground were proposed by the participants in view of current changed social, economic and cultural situations.
Senator Kamran Michael stated that the law is for Christian community and all denomination shall unanimously approve it. He was of the view that there shall not be amendments which are in contradiction to the Bible, however, clergy may like to consider different options and grounds for divorce. He further purposed another consultation meeting in Islamabad next month wherein the amendment proposed during current meeting will be discussed.
All denominational head from Roman Catholic, Church of Pakistan, Presbyterian, and Solvation Army, members from the civil society and Christian parliamentarians were part of the meeting and agreed to the purposed amendments.