To escape abusive marriages, many Christians in Pakistan convert to Islam | Religion News Service

Interesting:

For a Pakistani Christian like Shameela Masih, divorcing her abusive husband meant two choices — both nearly as bad as staying in the marriage.

“I have to prove adultery allegations against him,” said Masih, a 34-year-old mother of two. “The other option I have is to convert to Islam.”

Masih recently filed for divorce from a husband she said “frequently beats me up” and a mother-in-law who she said burned her leg with coal.

But under the majority-Muslim country’s laws, she must produce a witness who would testify to committing adultery with her husband. As a result, she’s now reluctantly planning to renounce her faith.

“Converting is the easiest way out,” she said. “My family tells me that they will disown me as a Muslim, but I don’t have a choice.”

Now Pakistani officials are considering revising the law to make it easier for couples to part ways.

“There are so many things in the existing 19th-century Christian Marriage Act that need to be revised and updated to stop the exploitation of people and protect the human rights,” said Kamran Michael, the federal minister for human rights who is spearheading the drive for the legislation.

The law grants divorces to Christian couples on four grounds: adultery, conversion, marriage to another or cruelty. But proving adultery or cruelty is tough, especially in Pakistan, where adultery is a crime, and the stigma against domestic violence is weak in many parts of the country. Christians comprise less than 2 percent of Pakistan’s population of 189 million.

Muslims, on the other hand, can easily obtain a divorce for a variety of reasons, including irreconcilable differences.

Formerly, Pakistan’s laws on divorce mirrored those in Britain. But in the early 1980s, then-military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq restored older laws from the colonial period that applied to Christians divorcing. For Muslims, he left revised laws from the 1960s intact.

“The current law on Christian divorce undermines the dignity of women,” said Fauzia Viqar, who chairs the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women. “Many Christian women are left in marriages where they are suffering cruelty by husbands without any relief from the state.”

Source: To escape abusive marriages, many Christians in Pakistan convert to Islam | Religion News Service

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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