The Government of Punjab has decided to change four laws that govern Christian marriage in order to better "protect women".
The purpose of the change, the authorities argue, "is to give
Christian women basic rights, as guaranteed under the Constitution of
Speaking to AsiaNews, Christian activists, educators and
parliamentarians praised the decision, which could be a decisive step
forward towards the protection of religious minorities, in particular
The government said that Punjab Human Rights and Minority
Affairs Department, the Strategic Reforms Unit, and Women’s Development
Department held consultations with stakeholders.
In Pakistan, Christian marriage, succession and inheritance are
governed by legislation dating back to the period of British rule:
Christian Marriage Act of 1872, the Divorce Act of 1869, the Succession
Act of 1925 and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of
"This is a great day for the women of Punjab,” said Marry James Gill, a Christian member of the Provincial Assembly.
“Punjab’s chief minister had already announced his intention to
reform Christian family law as part of the Women Empowerment Package
2017, but none of this would have been possible without the support of
those who remained steadfast despite difficulties."
For her, wives who lost their lives in violent marital relationships should be remembered "as martyrs."
According Kashif Aslam, national coordinator for the National
Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of
Pakistan, this is "a good decision for Christian women."
Still, "it is
just an announcement, and has not yet been approved,” he noted.
“These reforms need the support of all players involved. We want to
give women room and we must renew our commitment in the field of human
rights. I hope that everyone will work together on this."
Ata-ur-Rehman Saman, a Christian educator and activist, believes that
the "Government of Punjab has taken the lead in giving relief to women
from religious minorities. We really appreciate the initiative and we
expect that the amendments will comply with national and international
Under British-era laws, "the only reason for divorce was adultery by
women. Let us hope that the change eliminates the humiliation to which
they were subjected for centuries under these archaic laws."
The decision "could change the scenario in the life of the Christian
community,” said lawyer Kiran Simon. “For years,” she explained,
“thousands of Christian men have converted to Islam in order to obtain a
“In my professional experience, I have dealt with several cases in
which husbands asked strangers to claim a relationship with their wives
so as to accuse them of adultery. This way they had the freedom to
humiliate them publicly in court to get a divorce.”
“I really hope that our government pushes forward the discussion on the amendments."