A quantum of solace: A welcoming step by Lahore High Court
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2016-05-30 17:13:56

A quantum of solace: A welcoming step by Lahore High Court

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday restored Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869 earlier omitted through an ordinance promulgated by then military ruler General Ziaul Haq in 1981. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah declared Federal Law and Clause Ordinance 1981 as null and void which had omitted Section 7 from the Christian Divorce Act. With restoration of this section, Christian couples can divorce or file for separation in accordance with British customs and traditions. Previously, as per section 10 of the 1981 ordinance, Christian couples could only file for separation or divorce on one reason which was adultery. For decades now, this had made divorce a highly humiliating experience for Christian women and a failed marriage only resulted in accusations of a woman having a ‘poor character’. The court also restored Section 7 of the Act (omitted through the 1981 Ordinance) that allowed the application of principles accepted by the courts of England to deal with family and marriage disputes for Christians. The Christian Divorce Act has been under debate for some time now, but successive governments had failed to expunge its problematic parts despite demands from the Christian community. Over the decades, many Christians had been forced to change their religion only to obtain a divorce in a dignified manner. The other choice they had in front of them was to live through unhappy marriages. What is incomprehensible is why this ordinance was ever promulgated in the first place, given as it unfairly discriminates against a community. Laws governing marriage and divorce in the minority communities have caused considerable inconvenience over the years, and attempts to address these haven’t always been successful. Thankfully, the Hindu Marriage Bill was passed earlier in the year by the Sindh Assembly and by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice. However, this happened after decades of unnecessary delay. It is commendable that the LHC has corrected a historical wrong. The ordinance in question not only reeked of unfair discrimination, it also legalised misogyny — a distinct feature of various laws passed during General Zia’s time. It is time we bid farewell to the oppressive laws enacted during his regime one by one.

 

pk.shafaqna.com

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