A leading Hindu group in Pakistan has demanded the government to remove a controversial clause in the draft Hindu Marriage Bill that calls for annulment of marriage if any of the spouses converts their religion, saying it can trigger forced conversions of minority community women.
Ramesh Vankwani, patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said the Hindu community in Pakistan was concerned about the clause.
"The objectionable clause 12(iii) of the Hindu marriage bill can be used for forced conversions of Hindu girls and women. It states that a marriage could be terminated if either spouse converts to another religion," he said.
The clause 12(iii) says a marriage will be annulled if any of the spouses converts to another religion.
"Already we have brought up the issue of forced conversion of Hindu women and girls particularly in rural areas of Sindh with the government and this clause can lead to its misuse," said Vankwani, also a lawmaker of the ruling PML-N party.
There were many instances when Hindu girls were abducted and later presented before court with certificates confirming their conversion and marriage to a Muslim man, he said.
The minority Hindu community in Pakistan has for years demanded a Hindu Marriage Bill but now a controversial clause has been added to the landmark bill, the lawmaker said adding that there is no concept of divorce in the Hindu religion.
The National Assembly committee on law and justice last week approved the draft law, paving the way for registering marriages in the minuscule religious minority following decades of delay and inaction.
Seeking to put an end to the controversy, chairperson of standing committee on law and justice Senator Nasreen Jalil said she has called a meeting of the committee this week to discuss the concerns expressed by the Hindu community.
Jalil said the Senate committee would discuss the matter and if consensus was formed it will recommend the deletion of the clause to the National Assembly.
The draft bill has already been passed by the National Assembly standing committee on law and justice and needs to be approved by the Senate to become a law.
Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, had vehemently opposed any move to delete the controversial clause when the National Assembly standing committee met on February 8 and approved the draft bill.
The committee had adopted the bill unanimously after making two amendments to fix the minimum age of marriage for male and female at 18 and making the law applicable to the whole country, instead of just the federal territory.
Vankwani had been pushing for approving the bill but members of other parliamentary parties who claim to be more liberal have persisted with their objections.