The efforts to get the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 passed are picking up pace after a long period of debate and discussion. A report in this regard was submitted in the National Assembly on Thursday, which brings it very close to getting tabled, hopefully in the next session, provided the house manages to make quorum.

It took six months for the Standing Committee on Law and Justice to compile the report for this bill, after the ten months it took to actually clear it. Reprimanding the committee at this point serves no purpose, and just the fact that it is this close to being passed should be welcomed.

Apart from the registration of marriage, two major things that this law might be a safeguard against are abductions of Hindu women in Sindh and the subsequent forced conversions. With proof of marriage after the bill, families can use it as a means to secure the release of any woman abducted unlawfully. Clamping down on these issues is imperative if we are to secure some modicum of protection of religious minorities, particularly for the Hindus in Sindh.

There is an argument to be made for banking on this law to secure the release of any women abducted retrospectively. The government has a responsibility to ensure that this does not happen in the first place, but while governance and policing is imperfect, it is virtually impossible to stop this practice completely and immediately. This is why this law needs to be passed with great urgency, so that anyone involved in such a crime is brought to justice.

There are reports however, that clauses 12 and 15, that deal with the termination of marriage and the termination of marriage by mutual consent respectively, are still contentious for some sections of the Hindu community. The government should address these reservations. At the end of the day, the Muslim majority needs to remember that this law is for a minority segment, and for their protection alone. Nothing will come of being stubborn about the content of this law, other than communal discord. In this, the government should give the people what they actually want, and sooner rather than later in the form of amendments, to provide a holistic legal cover that makes the protection of Hindu females and the registration of marriages a more realistic possibility.

The Hindu community has been a fundamental part of this country ever since its inception, and the fact that this marriage bill comes 69 years after is utterly shameful. The registration of marriages is an important step that must be taken immediately, to put things right with this important section of Pakistani citizens.