New York, Aug 16: Some aspects of marriage laws for Hindus in Bangladesh mirror those for Muslims in India, according to a US government report.
The International Religious Freedom Report for 2016 (IRFR) released in Washington on Tuesday examined the marriage laws governing religious groups in various countries and said that polygamy is permitted for Hindu men in Bangladesh.
“Under Hindu (civil) law, men may have multiple wives, but there are officially no options for divorce,” the report said.
“Buddhists are covered under Hindu law and divorced Hindus and Buddhists may not legally remarry.”
Women are also prohibited from inheriting property under the civil laws for Hindus, the report said.
There is opposition to the prohibition on divorce and remarriage for Hindus and Buddhists, which do not apply to other religions.
Several organisations, including Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Mahila Parishad and Banchte Shekha have criticised the government for continuing to uphold these laws, IRFR said.
“A survey conducted during the year by Research Initiatives in Bangladesh and MJF showed that 26.7 per cent of Hindu men and 29.2 per cent of Hindu women would like to obtain a divorce but did not do so because of existing laws,” it added.
A Muslim man may have as many as four wives although he must obtain the written consent of his existing wife or wives before marrying again, the report said.
Although Muslims women have fewer divorce rights than men, courts must approve divorces and men have to pay former wives three months of alimony, the report noted.
In Pakistan, the report noted that non-Muslims faced difficulties because there was no law for civil or common law marriages while Muslims could register their marriages.
“According to Hindu and Sikh leaders, the legal uncertainty surrounding the process of registering marriages for their communities continued to create difficulties for Hindu and Sikh women in obtaining their inheritances, accessing health services, voting, obtaining a passport, and buying or selling property,” the report said.
However, it added, “The media reported some expressed concern that a provision of the national bill permitting annulment of Hindu marriages could be used to legitimise forced conversions of Hindu women.”
The report also said that the Sindh Provincial Assembly has passed a law for registration of marriages for Hindus in Sindh “as long as both parties are 18 or older, give consent to the marriage, and are not within a degree of familial relationship prohibited by Hindu custom”.