FAISALABAD, Pakistan: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Rights & Minorities Affairs, Government of the Punjab, organized a seminar that demanded early passage of progressive legislation “Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2019.
The CSJ Executive Director Peter Jacob, Father Khalid Rashid, Dr Rubina Feroze Bhatti, Mehnaz Javed and Atif Jamil Pagaan were among the speakers.
The seminar was joined by religious leaders, lawyers, educationists and members of civil society groups.
Speaking on the occasion, Peter Jacob said, “The proposed government law regulates issues relating to marriage and divorce of Christians. It neither makes any intervention in religious law, nor affect the religious beliefs of particular churches or does not impinges upon right of religious denominations to impose their own particular laws on their followers.”
Father Khalid Rashid supported the initiative of the government for introduction of Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2019 that will make the processes easy and streamlined and contribute to reduce the sufferings faced by Christian community. “The religious denomination have their own laws to deal with matrimonial issues, however, there is a provision for civil regulation all around the world to deal with issues relating to marriage and divorce,” he added.
Atif Jamil Pagaan Advocate said that there should be several grounds available for the Christian couples to get separation to avoid leading unhappy life, and there is a need to repeal 145 years old matrimonial laws, and introduce a comprehensive law that contribute to effectively address the needs and challenges relating to Christian marriages.
Dr. Rubina Feroze Bhatti said that the government and stakeholders must act responsibly with the law-making process as the dispensation of justice and gender equality in marriage relations is the domain of civil law, and government must make certain that the proposed bill is in compliant with human rights standards.
Mehnaz Javed said that this is certainly a historic and much needed legislation that will have direct effect on the lives of around four million citizens of Pakistan, and any further delay in the presentation of the bill will only lead to more sufferings. The government is open to build consensus and incorporate actionable recommendations to address the issues relating to Christian marriages.
The participants noted that reforms in Christian Marriage Act 1972 and Christian Divorce Act 1869 are not introduced since their promulgation. The expert group comprising religious leaders, jurists and human rights activists reviewed the Christian marriage and divorce bill 2019 introduced by the government, and made recommendations for improving the substantive and procedural content of the law to make certain that a comprehensive and effective bill is presented before legislative assemblies and passed into law. The Federal Ministry of Human Rights’ inclusion of the recommendations given by expert group is much appreciated. With the draft bill submitted in the parliament now, one can hope that the confusions are removed and the legislation will not face any obstacles.