ISLAMABAD: The delay in formulation of upgraded Christian Marriage and Divorce Law by replacing the 150 years old Christian Personal Laws, was slammed by members of religious minorities on Saturday.
The members of Christian, Hindu, and Sikh communities said that women and children were the main sufferers due to absence of upgraded Christian family laws, and the government was not moving ahead to forward the draft of the new law to the parliament.
Addressing a press conference here, at the National Press Club, the group calling itself as the "National Lobbying Delegation" (NLD) for Minorities Right demand the federal as well as the provincial governments to finalise the "Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2021" as early as possible.
Speaking on behalf of the whole group, Atif Jameel, advocate, Dr Sabir Michael, and educationist by profession and Romana Bashir, civil rights activists, said that the draft of the new bill was with the Ministry of Law and Justice for more than 22 months.
"Currently the family laws for the Christians are the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and Christian Marriage Act 1872," Atif Jameel said.
"It is interesting to note that the divorce bill came three years before the marriage bill at that time," he added.
He said that the times have changed and the social structure too has changed; therefore, the need for an upgraded law is imperative due to growing urbanisation and breaking of the old joint family and community-based living.
Romana Bashir informed about the status of the draft bill and said that the Federal Cabinet in August 20, 2019, approved the draft bill titled, Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2019, it was prepared after consultations with mainline churches in Pakistan by the Ministry of Human Rights.
"The minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari had expressed confidence in a meeting with us that the bill would soon be presented in the National Assembly by her ministry," Bashir said, adding, "But it will be two years next month that the draft bill is lying in the Law Ministry." She highlighted that as per the official requirement, the draft was forwarded to the Ministry of Law and Justice for vetting and its formation in the legal language.
Responding to the query over the reasons for the delay of the draft in Law Ministry, Dr Sabir Michael said the Law Ministry was holding consultations with the members of Christian community over the draft bill, but this process too should be completed at some time.
"There were around 150 rounds of consultations conducted by the Ministry of Human Rights with various Churches and elders of the Christian community before finalising the draft, but the Law Ministry too has reinitiated the process, and are doing so for almost two years," Dr Michael said.
"But we believe that there cannot be 100 percent consensus over any single item even if you continue for your whole life, let alone speak of Christian personal law," he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021