The government of Punjab province of Pakistan has introduced certain revolutionary changes in marriage laws. Some of these changes are welcome developments, like medical examination before nikah to prevent future complications like birth of handicapped children due to blood group incompatibility. But some changes have been severely criticized which enhance the role (read: consent] of parents which to the critics mean encouraging forced marriages.

Express Tribune has reported that the Punjab Government made eight amendments to the Nikahnama Law on Thursday. A circular was issued by the Local Government and Community Development Department and sent to all DCOs in Punjab, describing the Punjab specific amendments. The new amendments make it necessary for both the bride and bridegroom to undergo a blood test, which is made compulsory to prevent disabled and handicapped births.

The amendments also make it mandatory for parents/guardians of both bride and bridegroom to sign the Nikahnama document as witnesses. Mention of the bride and bridegroom’s date-of-birth has also been declared binding. The amendments in the circular are as follows:

  1. Additional columns and space shall be provided for dowry articles in the Nikahnama
  2. In addition to the names of fathers of both the bride and bridegroom, the names of mothers of both the bride and bridegroom shall be recorded with their CNIC numbers and dates of births.
  3. Father and mother of the bride and bridegroom shall sign in the witness to the marriage column.
  4. Marks of identification of both the bride and bridegroom shall be incorporated in the Nikahnama.
  5. Medical check up and report of the bride and bridegroom shall be mandatory to obviate any problem in their matrimonial life and subsequently any chance of having abnormal children. Blood groups of the bride and the bridegroom shall be entered in the marriage certificate.
  6. The name of the bride usually changes after the marriage is solemnized which then appears in future documents of the new family. Such a projected change shall be recorded in the certificate.
  7. Instead of mentioning only the age of the bride and bridegroom, their exact dates of birth shall be recorded as in their school certificates/CNIC/Passports.
  8. The latest passport size photos of the bride and bridegroom shall be pasted on the certificate.

The handout says the amendments are effective as of today (Thursday) and no nikah document will be registered without fulfilling these requirements. According to a report, PPP MNA Sherry Rehman criticized the amendments and said that they would strengthen the organizers of forced marriages.