By Sharanya Gopinathan
In Pakistan, marriages are documented and registered based on a marriage contract, known in Islam as nikaah-nama. Until now, Hindu marriages were unregulated and unrecognised by law, partly because they did not involve the concept of marriage contracts, thus opening up the possibility of human rights abuses, particularly for wives in cases of divorce.
The Ministry of Human Rights in Pakistan has been working for over three years to come up with the Hindu Marriage Law, which has just been passed by both Houses of Pakistan’s Parliament. Under this law, amongst other mandates, Hindu marriages in Pakistan will involve a Shaadi Parath, analogous to the Islamic nikahnama, that will now allow Hindu marriages to be registered and regulated.
The law is aimed at protecting minorities, and also seeks to protect the “legitimacy” of Hindu children born of marriages that were, until now, voidable. Of course, the idea of a child being “legitimate” or “illegitimate” based on whether their parents is married (or based on anything really) is pretty gross, but the Bill aims to address the social circumstances in which such dated judgements continue to be made. The law also states that the marriage contract have the details of both the bride and groom. In the case of the groom, he is required to provide his father’s name, while the bride must provide the names of both her mother and her father. Hmm.
Either way, personal laws are always a contentious issue on both sides of the border, and concepts of regulation and codification of personal law are always complex. That being said, on the face of it, this new law sounds like a general step in a good direction for Hindu women in Pakistan.