Christian divorce laws challenged on constitutional grounds

Church of Pakistan leaders asked to advise Lahore high court

The Lahore High Court in Pakistan has asked the Church of Pakistan for its assistance with a petition before the court that seeks overturn portions of the country’s 1981 Divorce Act. On 19 Feb 2016 Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah gave formal notice to the government that he would review the constitutionality of the divorce act, and asked the former moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Rev. Alexander Malik (pictured), and the Bishop of Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Irfan Jamil, to offer their perspective on the law as it applies to Christians. In the case at bar, Amin Masih, a Christian Pakistani, had asked that the provisions of the 1981 divorce act be overturned, arguing the current law, which states: “Any husband may present a petition to the District Court or to the High Court, praying that his marriage may be dissolved on the ground that his wife has been guilty of adultery,” was arbitrary and unfair. The 1981 law, he argued, replaced Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act adopted in 1869, which granted the court authority to dissolve the marriage on multiple grounds and upon the petition of the husband or the wife. In his petition, Mr. Masih said he had divorced his wife, but the dissolution of their marriage was not recognized by the courts, as he was not willing to disparage his wife’s character falsely by claiming she had committed adultery, when the grounds for their divorce was mutual incompatibility. Bishop Malik is expected to support the petition calling for the revision of divorce laws for Christians as he has in the past called for their reform.

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