Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar addressed All-Parties Conference (APC) on Christian Personal Laws as keynote speaker today in Islamabad. The conference was convened by a coalition of thirteen civil society organizations and minority rights activists. Leaders and representatives from various national political parties, minority community leaders, parliamentarians, lawyers, clergy leaders, journalists, and large number of representatives from human rights groups and civil society attended the conference. The main objective of the conference was to urge the federal and provincial governments to expedite the passage and implementation of personal laws for the Christian community in Pakistan that have been pending for several years.
The conference highlighted the need to update and reform the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act 1872, which are outdated, and do not reflect the current realities and aspirations of the Christian community in Pakistan. The conference also demanded the introduction of a comprehensive Christian Family Law, which would cover the issues of marriage, divorce, custody, maintenance, inheritance, and adoption for Christians in Pakistan. Speakers and people representing different segments in society collectively demanded from political parties to update, pass and implement Christian Personal Laws without any further delay, as this was essential to safeguard the rights and for the empowerment of religious minorities in Pakistan.
In her speech, Chairperson Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar emphasized for updating laws for minority communities and their proper implementation to protect women and other vulnerable segments of society. She said that it is responsibility of the state as well as national political parties to update two centuries old outdated Christian family laws and to review the existing lacunas just to ensure that no segment is deprived of its constitutional rights. She assured her full support and assistance on behalf of her commission for Christian community in pursuing their legal rights. She called for bridging the gap between minority communities and political parties. She also highlighted that the current law allowed Christian girls to marry at 13 years and boys at 16 years, which was against international human rights standards and comes under the subject of Child Marriage that is not only affecting physical and mental health of generations but also have its serious financial and economic repercussions.