Christian Divorce Laws in Pakistan

Divorce in the Christian faith is governed by the Divorce Act of 1869. Section 7 of this Act, which allowed divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage was repealed through Federal Laws (Revision and Declaration) Ordinance, 1981 (XXVII of 1981) by General Zia ul Haq when he came to power. After the repeal of Section 7, divorce under the aforesaid Act could only be given under Section 10 in which divorce could be taken on the grounds of (a) change in religion (b) second marriage (c) rape (d) sodomy and (e) bestiality (f) adultery with bigamy, (g) incestuous adultery, (h) adultery coupled with cruelty or (i) adultery coupled with desertion. This made it very difficult for the Christian community in Pakistan to divorce their spouse without the proof of adultery. This led to many Christians over the years, carry out fake conversions, in order to divorce their spouse.

In this regards a petition was filed P L D 2017 Lahore 610 (AMEEN MASIH Versus FEDERATION OF PAKISTAN and others) where the Petitioner wanted to divorce his wife since his marriage had broken down irretrievably. However, he was not able to do so under the aforesaid Act and did not want to falsely accuse his wife of adultery. The courts through Judicial Review in this case restored Section 7 of the Divorce Act 1869 by taking into consideration the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 (UK) and also allowed the additional grounds of divorce as mentioned in the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973.

In the year 2019, a draft bill titled Christian Marriage and Divorce Act 2019 was proposed to make changes in the Divorce Act 1869 and Christian Marriage Act 1872 in order to provide grounds other than adultery for divorce to Christians. The Act has not been passed yet and the Bill still needs to be approved by the Parliament.

Therefore, the case of Ameen Masih still holds ground and is a landmark judgment which is referred in cases to obtain Divorce other than on the grounds of adultery by the Christian community.