National Assembly deferred the deliberations on the Marriage Bill 2017 and decided to refer it to the National Law Review Taskforce (NLRT) during the third reading of the bill yesterday.

Of the 11 chapters in the Bill, the deliberation could not continue beyond the second chapter.

This is the fifth time the NA members deferred the Bill. Works on the amendment of the Marriage Act began since the fifth session.

The Bill met a similar fate in November last year. To the surprise of many, NA decided to repeal the 16 clauses proposed by the women, children and youth committee (WCYC) for inclusion in the Marriage Amendment Act 2016.

The WCYC was asked to propose a new Marriage Bill for the summer session this year.

The Bill will now be tabled as a government bill after the National Law Review Taskforce (NLRT) reviews it.

Most of the Members of Parliament (MP) expressed concerns including the need to use appropriate terms and words. They said that the Bill need to be further reviewed by the committee before proceeding with deliberations in the house.

The WCYC chairperson, Bumthang’s Chumey-Ura MP, Tshewang Jurme, who presented the Bill said that it has been extensively reviewed and deliberated not only in committee meetings but also with various stakeholders.

The committee chairperson said that while he supports the submission of the Members to defer the deliberations, he said that the Bill has already gone through a lot of consultations and review. “So the Bill should be referred to the National Law Review Taskforce for further review.”

Tshewang Jurme said that it had become necessary to pass a new law on marriage, as the existing law has not only become outdated but subsequent amendments have not been consolidated.

He said that the Bill has been posted on the National Assembly website for more than three months for feedback but there was not a single comment. “The speaker instructed the MPs to consult the Bill with people during their constituency tours but the committee did not receive any feedback.”

All MPs agreed that it is important to frame a new Marriage Act in view of changing times.

Members deliberated at length on the need for sureties, whether it should be pronounced in the Act that the bridegroom should have a man for surety and his bride a woman.

“This is discriminatory,” economics affairs minister Lekey Dorji said.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that the responsibilities of the surety have to be mentioned elaborately.

“Today most of those couples ask whoever is available at the court, including strangers, to be their surety,” he said. “This practice was defeating the purpose of having to produce surety.”

He said the surety was needed to ensure that they are not related by blood or that they are not married to any other person.

The committee had actually proposed to amend clauses on child support allowance, separation cost to be paid by the spouse who commits cruelty, and the responsibility in upbringing children born out of wedlock when the mother dies.

After the session yesterday, the committee chairperson posted his regrets on his Facebook page. “RIP marriage bill 2017, National Assembly today resolved to defer marriage bill 2017, my deepest sympathy to my colleagues of WCYC, committee secretaries and legal officers who worked tirelessly towards the development of this new Bill,” he wrote. “My hope remains alive still.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister presented the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill 2017 in the House yesterday morning. The Bill has been referred to the good governance committee for review and will be tabled on May 26.

Tshering Palden