Christian Pakistani women embracing Islam to escape abusive marriages

Many Pakistani Christian women who are in abusive marriages are faced with the choice of either proving adultery allegations against their husbands or embracing Islam, and many of them choose the latter.

(REUTERS / Mani Rana)Women from the Christian community attend a protest after twin blast attacks on two churches in Lahore March 15, 2015.

Shameela Masih, a 34-year-old Christian mother of two, recently filed for divorce because her husband reportedly constantly beats her, while her mother-in-law uses coal to hurt her leg. Although she knows that her family will disown her if she converts to Islam and she does not really want to denounce her faith, she said it is the most convenient choice for her, Religion News Service details.

As of now, Pakistani officials are mulling over making changes to the law so that couples can part ways in a more convenient manner. Human rights federal minister Kamran Michael is leading the efforts to revise their 19th-century Christian Marriage Act, which only allowed divorce in cases involving adultery, conversion, cruelty, or marriage to another person.

"The current law on Christian divorce undermines the dignity of women," said Punjab Commission on the Status of Women's chairperson Fauzia Viqar. "Many Christian women are left in marriages where they are suffering cruelty by husbands without any relief from the state."

While Christians have a difficult time breaking away from abusive marriages, Muslims have it easier. In fact, the law allows them to obtain divorce for irreconcilable differences and a host of other reasons.

The new divorce law will be introduced to the Parliament in the next few weeks. The proposed changes will allow couples to divorce without accusing their partners of adultery.

Meanwhile, a Christian woman who was abducted and forced to marry a man who raped her has been rescued with the help of the British Pakistani Christian Association. Fouzia Bibi, who was kidnapped on July 23, 2015, has finally been granted divorce through a new law penalizing perpetrators of forced marriages, the Pakistan Christian Post reported.

BPCA threatened to file new charges against Nazir Ahmed, the man who raped and subjected Bibi to forced marriage, if he contested the divorce. He has since gone into hiding and has not returned to his home.