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Pakistani Hindu lawmaker demands law against forced conversion

ISLAMABAD: A leading Hindu parliamentarian in Pakistan today demanded a legislation against forced conversion of girls from the minority community on the pretext of marriage, as the country’s parliament is set to discuss the proposed Hindu Marriage Act.

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also the patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council, was talking to media after briefing Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Islamabad about the proposed Hindu Marriage Act which he recently presented in the National Assembly.

The CII is constitutional body which assists the parliament on matters pertaining to religion.

Vankwani said he asked the CII to formulate effective laws to discourage the forced conversion of Hindu girls on the pretext of marriage.

“The main issue faced by our community is forced conversions as the kidnapped girls ultimately submit to the key demand of the kidnappers ? convert and marry a Muslim,” he said.

“There is currently no law regarding Hindu marriage, as a result, our marriages are not registered anywhere,” the lawmaker said.

“It is the right of the Hindu community to have their marriages registered in the relevant districts.”

He said presently only National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) provided identity cards are the only proof of marriage for Hindus.

“The downside is that any person can get an affidavit made from the court declaring that a certain boy or a girl is their spouse ? and Nadra will accept that affidavit as proof of marriage,” he added.

Vankwani, who is from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said that the bill submitted to the CII and the Ministry of Law contains clauses relevant to the Hindu religion and tradition.

He demanded that the new law should set the minimum age of marriage for a Hindu woman at 18 years and that of a man at 21.

There are around eight million Hindus in the country of 180 million. Most of the Hindus reside in southern province of Sindh.

According to the bill presented by Vankwani, all the Hindu marriages should be registered in the relevant district councils within 15 days and the marriage certificates must be attested by the pundit who solemnised the marriage, along with two witnesses.

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