May 25, 2024, 8:29 pm

Muslim marriage registration form amendment, ‘Kumari’ being removed

  • Update Time : Monday, April 8, 2024
  • 28 Time View
Photo: Collected

Desk Report:

As per the order of the High Court, an initiative has been taken to amend the Muslim marriage registration form (Nikahnama) after almost 50 years. The offensive word ‘Kumari’ (virgin) for women is being dropped from Nikahnama forms. Besides, how many wives of the bridegroom are present, should also be reported in the amended form.

According to sources Law Ministry, the draft (revised) form has already been prepared. Besides, the educational qualification of Marriage registrars (Qazis) is being amended from Alim to Fazil and instead of setting up multiple offices at their own expense at convenient locations in Unions and Municipalities, the rules are being amended to make only one Qazi office.

According to the related sources, the notification may be issued this month.

The Muslim Marriage and Divorce (Registration) Act, 1974, which was enacted in 2009, requires a total of 25 types of information in the Nikahnama form (Bangladesh Form No. 1601). In point 5 of that form, information is sought – ‘Whether the daughter is a virgin, a widow or a divorced woman?’ The High Court in a judgment asked to change and amend this clause. Because of this, the new form amends the clause ‘Whether the daughter is unmarried, a widow or a divorced woman?’ That information has been requested in a new form.

Clause 21 of the current Nikahnama form asks, ‘Whether the bridegroom has a wife at present and if so, whether the groom has taken the permission of the arbitration counsel under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961, to enter into another marriage.’

In the new draft form, this paragraph asked, ‘Whether the groom is married, single, divorced, or not? How many wives, if any, and whether the groom obtained the permission of the Arbitration Council under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961 to enter into another marriage?’ Apart from that, the information about present wives number should also be given in the new form.

Human rights organization Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Naripokkho and Mahila Parishad filed a public interest petition in the High Court on September 1, 2014, seeking amendment of the Nikahnama form. In that year, the High Court issued a ruling to those concerned. On August 25, 2019, the High Court ruled that writing the word ‘virgin’ in paragraph 5 of the Kabinnama in the case of Muslim marriages is illegal and null and void.

The full judgment published on November 17, 2022, directed the concerned government ministry to take necessary steps to remove the word ‘Kumari’ from the Nikahnama form. Besides, the court also directed to mention the current marital status of the groom in paragraph 21 of the marriage certificate.

According to the plenary judgment, clauses 21 and 22 of the Nikahnama only sought information about whether the groom currently had a valid marriage but whether the bridegroom is a divorcee, a bachelor, or a celibate, no information is sought about it. On the other hand, Article No. 5 asks whether the daughter is divorced or widowed, and whether the girl has had sexual relations anywhere before – such information is sought, which is insulting, discriminatory, prejudicial and against the Constitution.

Maulana Sagar Ahmed Shaheen, Central Secretary General of Bangladesh Muslim Marriage Registrar Welfare Association, said that the form needed to be revised. A lot of unnecessary information is asked about the bride’s marital status, nothing about the groom’s. Even though the groom married 5 times, nothing was asked about it. However, the bride is asked to know whether she is a virgin or not, which is humiliating. We have gone to the Ministry of Law to talk about these issues.

It is known that PBI drafted the new form and sent it to the police headquarters on February 4. From there it was sent to the Ministry of Law. The draft form was signed by PBI Additional IGP Banaj Kumar Majumdar. It is said in that letter, in the case of remarriage of divorced women, many times the divorced woman hides the information and writes the word virgin in paragraph 5, and in many cases, even though the daughter is divorced with the mutual consent of the bride and groom, she fills the Nikah registration form mentioning ‘virgin’. However, it has been seen in these cases later, if there is any dispute after the marriage, the bridegroom filed a case against the bride citing fraud and breach of trust in the marriage registration form. In these cases, women are subjected to personal, family and social harassment. For this also the form needs to be corrected.

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