Wednesday, March 23, 2011
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mukesh Kumar
Date: Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 6:46 AM
Subject: Read artical on Hindu Marriage Registration on Daily Khabrain 22 March 2011
To: Pakistan Hndu Post
Hope you will be fine there, Please Find an attach fine of Hindu Marriage Registration. We are very Thankful To Main Azhar Jamil sab.
By Mohsin Dar, Uzma Tahir, Javeria Malik
Punjab : Permaisry Mai, 27, belongs to the scheduled caste Hindu community from Rahim Yar Khan, South Punjab. She is a mother of three girls, her oldest being 5 and the youngest only five months old. Her husband Gomand jee makes a humble living selling shoes in Chowk BahdurPur, about 12 kilometres from Rahim Yar Khan City.
Hindu Women in Permaisry’s town generally do not travel outside their area. Many of them are uneducated due to unavailability of girls’ schools, discriminatory attitude in the educational institutions and other socio-cultural barriers that prevent women, especially those belonging to the religious minorities, from getting an education.
Permaisry’s first travel outside Rahim Yar khan was with her husband right after their marriage when the couple went to pay respects at a Hindu temple in Lahore. Due to security reasons, they were asked to show their identity cards at the gate. This got them worried as Permaisry, like other Hindu women did not have an NIC. For lack of a proof of identity, they were denied entry into the temple.
Later as Permaisry and her husband tried checking in a small hotel to spend the night, they again faced the same problem .This time Permaisry was not only asked for her NIC but also a proof that the couple was married to each other, as in Pakistan, due to the Islamic laws, unmarried couples are not offered shared accommodation in hotels. Lacking either of the two, they were again refused check-in at the hotel. As they did not have enough money to rent two separate rooms, the couple had to spend the night at a railway station.
“I can never forget that cold night and the humiliation I faced. Once back in my village, I vowed never to travel outside my village again.” But the awful experience did not stop Permaisry from applying for her NIC once she reached back home. It was only then that she realised the structural impediments that kept her and many other Hindu women from getting a proof of identity. While submitting her NIC request from at the NADRA office, she was told to show her proof of marriage, which can only be obtained if a person already possesses an NIC.
"I realised there was no system in place to facilitate Hindu women. They kept sending us back and forth asking for additional documents, without realising that if the very basic document, the NIC, was missing, how could I possibly have any other document!”
Disconcerted by the registration authorities’ response, and not having any other recourse, Permaisry and her husband decided to raise the matter with Scheduled Caste Rights Movement, a struggle supported by ActionAid since 2008.
For Hindu families, lack of marriage registration mechanism is a matter of serious concern. Despite being the largest religious minority in Pakistan there are no legislations or systems in place to ensure their equal rights.
S cheduled caste Hindus are unable to obtain their National Identity Cards, in the absence of which their other rights are also violated. They face dual discrimination as a minority in a Muslim country and as “lower caste” among fellow Hindus. But this discrimination is not officially recognized. Hence, there is no legislation against it and, as a consequence, impunity is widespread. As shared by the Hindu communities, lack of NIC and marriage registration has resulted in many domestic, social and psychological problems for the Hindu families, especially affecting the women and resulting in their exploitation.
According to them, for years Hindu women have been forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men while they were already married to a Hindu. Since there was no documentation to prove the earlier marriage, the women’s husband or her family were unable to take up the issue on legal grounds.
Due to a lack of proof of marriage, married Hindu couples also face numerous problems in travelling and lodging outside their place of residence. Many of them lack national identity cards (NIC), but even those who have NICs lack the proper evidence of marriage. Due to a lack of NIC and marriage registration, women do not get any share in their parents’ and husbands’ property, they are unable to get health services, cast a vote, obtain a Passport, and buy or sell any property.
ActionAid first started to work on Hindu Communities’ issues in 2005 when it organised and mobilised the Hindu community in Rahim Yar Khan, South Punjab and educated them about their rights. For three years, our efforts focused on challenging structural caused of discrimination against the Hindus and promoting peace building and interfaith harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
We supported rallies, seminars, press conferences and media campaigns to inform media, civil society and concerned authorities about the stark discrimination that low caste Hindus faced in their daily lives and made efforts to bring a change in mindset to end this discrimination It was not until 2008, that the issue of Hindu communities’ birth and marriage registration became our key focus area with the support and participation of the scheduled caste Hindus across Punjab, especially Rahim Yar khan where according to 1998 population census, more than 75,000 Scheduled Caste Hindus live.
With the active participation of the communities and Hindu activists, a full fledged movement was launched by the name of Scheduled Caste Rights Movement (SCRM). SCRM-Punjab Chapter started lobbying and advocating for legislation regarding Hindu marriage registration.
While consultations, seminars press conferences and rallies were arranged to sensitize media and civil society on the issue, a case was filed in the high court to press for the need for such legislation. In addition, legislators at the provincial and national level, Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Minority Affairs were contacted and convinced to take the issue forward.
With the support and participation of Permaisry Mai, her issue was shared with the media as a test case exemplifying the sufferings of thousands of Hindu women. ActionAid supported the SCRM to draft Pakistani Hindu Marriages Registration Bill 2009, in consultation with Hindu Religious scholars and the Hindu community. The draft bill was submitted to the Ministry of Minority Affairs & Ministry of Human Rights so as to push them to start the legislation process. Throughout this process, media was used as a strategic partner and several television programmes, interview of minority groups, newspaper articles and features were developed to strengthen the campaign.
As an outcome of the consistent and collective struggle the supreme court of Pakistan on 23 November 2009, took Suo Moto notice of the issue and directed National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to issue a National Identity Card to Permaisry Mai depicting her status as married. Concerned authorities were also urged to legislate for the registration of Hindu marriages.
This was a huge breakthrough for thousands of Hindu Pakistanis and a realisation of their long standing demand.
With this order, Permaisry Mai became the first ever Hindu Women to have fought her case on legal grounds and obtained an NIC. “I have learnt from this success that if you don’t get your rights, you fight for them. ActionAid taught us how to claim and fight for our rights. None of this would have been possible without their support.” Says a happy and jubilant Permaisry
After the successful mobilisation and organisation of the Punjab chapter, SCRM is in the process of organising SCRM- Sindh chapter so that the thousands of scheduled caste Hindus living in the Sindh province can also claim their human rights and an equal status in the society.