Changes to Christian Marriage & Divorce Bill 2019 welcomed

LAHORE, Pakistan: A People’s Assembly organized by the People’s Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) and the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in Lahore on Saturday invited speakers to highlight two major concern for minority citizens and communities in Pakistan: “Christian Marriage & Divorce Bill 2019” and “Implementation Mechanism for Minorities Job Quota”.

The Assembly was attended by relevant stakeholders in the civil society, members of academia, media representatives, minority rights activists and legal experts.

Prominent names included Bishop Emeritus of Lahore Dr. Alexander John Malik, prominent human rights activist I.A. Rehman, former Justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Nasira Iqbal, Chairperson State Commission for Women AJK Maria Iqbal Tarana, Chairperson CSJ Wajahat Masood, and Chairperson PCMR Peter Jacob.

Proceedings commended with an update by Peter Jacob on the latest legislative developments vis-à-vis the Christian Marriage & Divorce Bill 2019 and the role of civil society organisations in the process of law-making; particularly so, in improving the substantive and procedural content of the law.

A comprehensive set of amendment suggested by an Expert Working Group in a series of consultative meetings were forwarded to the Ministry of Human Rights and have been successfully incorporated in the draft bill owing to diligent & devoted efforts of CSJ and PCMR.

Bishop Alexander John Malik said that the revised draft caters to the technological needs of the 21st century as well as the interests of all religious denomination with special regard to the individual’s fundamental right to religious freedom.

Also speaking on the occasion, the Executive Director CSJ Mr. Peter Jacob said, “We call upon all stakeholders to take keen interest, argue with logic during the processes of law making. We particularly urge the government to share the information proactively for expeditious enactment.”

The second part of the conference brought into focus the issue of lack of implementation of minority related job quotas across public and private sectors. In this regard, a Rozgar Authority Bill 2019 was also presented to the provincial Minister for Human Rights and Religious Affairs, Mr. Ijaz Alam Augustine. The bill calls for the establishment of a Rozgar Authority which shall have the specific mandate to monitor the implementation status of minority related job quotas.

During the conference, a series of short documentary films was also screened to create and raise awareness regarding reforms in Christian matrimonial laws, and lack of implementation of minorities’ job quota.