The Sindh law proposal may sound like a joke, but is deadly serious.
by Massimo Introvigne
“So, your daughter or son is turning 18 and is not yet married? Bad. Very bad. You should submit a report explaining why this scandal is happening, and what you plan to do about it.”
This line may come from the humorous novel Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century), published by French novelist Albert Robida in 1882. At that time, the Latter-day Saints (popularly known as Mormons) still practiced polygamy, and Robida imagined that they had come to control England, and were sending young men who were not married to at least one woman to a “Bachelor’s Prison.”
The novel is old, and would probably not even be understood today, but a law proposal in Sindh, one of the four provinces of Pakistan, is brand-new. A member of the Sindh Assembly called Syed Abdul Rasheed, who represents Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a political alliance of several Islamic parties, introduced last week a draft bill called “The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021.”
Under the bill, the parents of boys or girls who turn 18 without being married will be compelled “to submit an undertaking with justified reason of delay before the Deputy Commissioner of the District,” explain what they are doing to remedy the situation, or pay a fine if they do not submit the report. The politician explained that parents should express in the report “a commitment indicating the time within which their children will be married.”
He indicated he believes the bill is consistent with Muslim sharia law, yet it will also apply to non-Muslims. Religious minorities are particularly concerned, and believe the bill, if passed, will actually promote under-age and forced marriages, which are already a plague in Pakistan.
Bishop Samson Shukardin of the Hyderabad Diocese, which encompasses most of Sindh province, said that the Catholic Church resolutely opposes the draft bill.