First country in the world to register Sikh Marriages: Pakistan

The wedding ceremony of Major Hercharn Singh, a serving officer in the Pakistan Army, who got married in December 2017.

Sikhism was evolved in AD 1500, Guru Nanak was founder of Sikh faith. Guru Nanak was born in 1469 BC in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan. Sikhs believe in monotheism and emphasizes on the Unity of God. Gurdawaras (gateways to the Guru) is a place of Sikh worship.  These Gudawaras had been constructed mostly in Punjab. These are constructed in the honor of Guru Nanak. Almost 20,000 Sikhs in Pakistan live in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces. Sikhs and Muslim live in harmony in both the provinces.

Marriage in Sikhism is considered as the highest, the most fruitful path because it requires more exertion to deal with another ego else than oneself. Sikh marriages are called “Anand Karaj”. The literary meaning of Anand Karaj is “Blissful Union” or Joyful Union”. This word Anand Karaj was introduced by Guru Amar Das. It can also be defined as “the lawful union of a Sikh male and Sikh female” in accordance with religious practices enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book of Sikhs).

Initially, Sikh Marriages were recorded only in “Gurdawara” (Prayer place of Sikhs). To regulate and record Sikh marriages in Union Council, Punjab Assembly Pakistan has approved “Sikhs Anand Karaj Marriages act 2017”. The said bill was presented by Sardar Romesh Singh Arora in 2017 in 32nd session of Punjab Assembly, unanimously approved by approved by Chief Minister Punjab “Shahbaz Shareef”(PML-N).

This is first ever private member’s bill which was adopted by the present legislature. Passing of this bill has effectively repealed the Anand Marriage Act 1909, passed previously under British Rule. The approval of this bill made Pakistan, first country in the world to legalize and record “Sikh Marriages”.

Anand Karaj or the marriage ceremony will be performed with the Sikh Religious practice. A “marriage deed’ a legal document authorizing the matrimonial union, will be the issued by a registrar. According to the bill, the marriage will take place as long as bride and groom are of sound mind and not below the age of 18 years. The marriages of minors will not be legally recognized. They enter into marriage contract with their free and full consent. On the other hand, in case a “Party” seeks to dissolve the marriage, he/ she must submit a written note to the chairman, head of a Union Council, Union Administration or municipal committee.

Writing more, this law has made history in Pakistan, as it is the first time that family matters of a minority, such as marriages will be regulated separately. Even in India the birth place of Sikhism, Sikhs have not been given a separate identity in terms of Family Law.

Pakistan Sikh Gurdawara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) president Sardar Tara Singh said “there was no Law of Sikh Community but their family matters will be dealt with through relevant legislation.” The whole Sikh community welcomed the passage of the bill and applauded the role of the Punjab Assembly. Sikh leaders said it was a good premonition that shown love and respect for member of minor community. The bill allowed Sikh to protect their family matters. In 2017, a similar bill for Hindu Marriages was also passed. The Hindu Marriage bill was intended to facilitate women, so that they can get documentary proof of their marriages. A Sikh marriage irrespective of the region, can be registered in Pakistan.

Concluding more, around 180 million (3%) of Pakistan’s population consists of Non-Mulsims. Following the laws for minorities prescribed in Islam, Punjab Assembly has proudly made Pakistan the only country to give legal status to minorities. Now, Sikh Marriages will also be recorded in Union council like Nikah Nama of Muslims. This shows a softer image of Pakistani society in which Muslim majority never spoiled dignity of minorities. Minorities live their lives according to their own religion with freedom in this country.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Lahore Times.

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