It is inconceivable in most countries that a legal and traditional institution as strong as the marriage cannot be given constitutional recognition.

The minorities of Pakistan, specifically the Hindu community, since the creation of the state could not register their marriages. They had no proof, and for 68 years wherever these communities had to face officialdom or any activity that required documentation they ran into trouble.

On Monday, the Sindh Assembly passed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, becoming the first assembly in Pakistan to pass the respective bill. The bill corrects this legal loophole and provides methods of enforcement of registration. While the Sindh assembly must be praised for paying attention to an area that required legislation and using their powers to fix it, any congratulations must be tinged with the knowledge that it took so long to give religious minorities this right, and that the other provinces are yet to do so.

However they are not far behind. A similar resolution is under discussion in the Punjab Assembly, meanwhile Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa have ceded the authority to legislate on this matter to the National Assembly - where the standing committee on law and justice has already approved the draft. If the political parties stay on course, soon Pakistan may have nationwide protection for religious minorities. One hopes that this will to reform outdated and insufficient laws continues, and other glaring lacunas as this one can be mopped up - for a beginning.

Keeping with the prevalent fashion in Pakistan, the Hindu Marriage Bill - the version being debated in the CA - does protect religious minorities, but one clause threatens to undo it all. Under the insistence of - you guessed it, the infamous Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani, the JUI-F MNA and chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) - a clause has been included that annuls a marriage if any one spouse changes their religion. Even if we forget the fact that minority leaders and civil rights activists are in clamour - since they are direct stakeholders, that in itself should be enough - equating legal sanctions with religious conversions is breach of the right to religious freedom. The bill would be useless if it adds to the oppression of minorities.