Ministries asked to give recommendations over ‘premarital blood screening’ bill

Zubair Qureshi

A joint meeting of the Senate Standing Committees on Law & Justice and Religious Affairs & Inter-faith Harmony asked Ministry of Law, Ministry of Health Services, Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Religious Affairs to sit together and prepare a draft on the premarital blood screening (family laws amendment) bill, 2016 with reference to blood screening for Thalassemia only.
The meeting was held with Senators Javed Abbasi and Hafiz Hamdullah in the chair here at the Parliament House. The scope of the bill by Senator Chaudhary Tanvir Khan was limited to Thalassemia so that the practicality of the blood screening is made easy. The committee and the mover of the bill agreed that other diseases can be included in the ambit of the bill at later stages. The intention of the bill is to spread awareness about and stop chances of Thalassemia major; a disease which is no permanent treatment and requires blood transfusion every month. It is pertinent to mention here that there is high probability of Thalassemia major in child in case both parents have Thalassemia minor. The bill asks for mandatory premarital blood screening to help prevention of Thalassemia major in child.
The committee heard members, concerned ministries, National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) on whether the blood screening should be made mandatory and whether option of marriage should be allowed in case of positive results. Senator Hafiz Hamdullah read out a recommendation made by Council of Islamic Ideology in 2010 which asked for including a cloumn in marriage certificate requiring mention of the disease but at the same time gave authority to people if they agree on marriage despite the presence of Thalassemia minor. Senator Chaudhry Tanvir agreed on this recommendation while Senators Hamza, Sajid Mir, and Saleem Zia opposed the provision of choice and said that the couple should be stopped in case of positive results otherwise the aim of the bill of prevention of the disease might not be achieved. Chairman NCHR Justice Chauhan and Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz while giving their opinion mentioned similar laws in place in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa and asked for defining healthy marriage and premarital screening in the bill.

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