It has been a good day for diversity and minority rights for Pakistan today, as the Punjab Assembly passed unanimously passed the first-ever Sikh Marriage Act in the world, also making it the first private member’s bill adopted by the provincial legislature.

The Act, formally titled the Punjab Anand Karaj Act, marks the first time that family matters of the Sikh community, such as marriage, will be separately regulated. According to the Act, Anand Karaj, which is defined as “the lawful union of a Sikh male and Sikh female” will be performed in accordance with the religious practices as permitted in the Sikh religious text Guru Granth Sahib. This includes provisions which align with the Sikh scripture and beliefs, which include an inability to contract marriages with close blood relations of father as well as making four rounds of fire mandatory for intending couples. Protection which is available in other family law is also provided in the Act, with the legal age for marriage for both men and women being 18.

With a new controversy a day occurring in parliament and the assemblies, this month has been very encouraging in respect to inclusivity and diversity in the parliament. It is a heartwarming sign of Pakistan’s inclusivity and acceptance of different communities, that a week after the historic oath of Pakistan’s first female Dalit Hindu senator, we see progressive legislation being passed granting rights to another minority.

For the past few months, parliament and the provincial assemblies were engaged in a lot of controversies, which included everything except what it was supposed to do. It is good to see the democratic bodies doing their primary job-good progressive legislation which impacts the lives of people. It is also a test of the importance of having more diverse representation for our MPAs and MNAs-it was a Sikh MPA, Ramesh Singh Arora, who introduced the bill.