09/24/2019, 13.18
PAKISTAN
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Christian couple: the lack of a marriage law encourages conversions to Islam

by Shafique Khokhar

Pakistan’s National Assembly adopted a draft bill, but it has not yet been passed it into law. One of its members notes the law will affect four million Pakistani citizens. Imran and Amber, separated with two children, tell their story. He remarried according to the Islamic rite, saying he had no choice.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The lack of a law regulating Christian marriage in Pakistan is encouraging couples who wish to remarry to convert to Islam, this according to a Christian couple who spoke to AsiaNews.

As a result of irreconcilable differences between themselves and their families, the two separated and now want the country’s parliament to adopt without delay the Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2019, whose first draft was approved last August.

Imran Masih and Amber got married in 2013. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Right away, the two grew apart. He accused her of spending too much time away from home, with her family; in turn, she complained that he left her alone at home all day, and for this she sought her parents' company. In 2016 the couple decided to part ways.

“I was totally broken after the fight between our two families,” said Imran. “Amber left me and started living with her parents. I waited a year, then decided to get marry again, but when I went to church, I was refused to marry again because there was no law for Christians to divorce.”

The only way to marry his new bride was to get marry in a Muslim court signing a Nikkah, a freely consented marriage contract. Both Imran and Aasha “belong to Christian families but due to lack of proper family law we did that (Muslim Nikkah) and after this marriage we still perform our Christian rituals,” he said.

Unlike her husband, Amber has not remarried. "I could have had a second marriage but because of the lack of a proper Christian family law I decided not to marry again since it would require me to convert to Islam,” she explained. Now “I am living with my parents and kids.” She gets a monthly alimony from her former husband.

The former spouses say they are not the only Christians in this situation. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the People’s Commission for Minority Rights (PCMR) held a seminar on 18 September in support of such requests. The two organisations brought together religious leaders, lawyers, educators and civil society groups.

“A comprehensive and effective bill must be presented before legislative assemblies and passed into law,” said CSJ executive director Peter Jacob.

Khawar Mumtaz, president of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCWR), notes that efforts to get marriage legislation passed have been going on for nine years and she is happy that draft bills would back interfaith marriages.

For Jamshed Thomas, a Member of the National Assembly, "the much-needed legislation will have direct effect on the lives of over four million citizens of Pakistan”.

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