Family laws silent on divorced women's rights -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Family laws silent on divorced women’s rights

ISLAMABAD: The family laws in Pakistan are silent on the rights of divorced women and most of the women do not have the freedom to select spouse and a profession, says a National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) report launched on Thursday at a local hotel.

The report says that the denial of rights to women is highest in Balochistan, as restriction on selection of profession is 66 percent, selection of spouse 77.1 percent, freedom of traveling 66.13 percent, problem in keeping contacts with others 64.97 percent and the denial of the right to inheritance 100 percent. The research carried out by the NCSW under United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that the concept of inheritance was evolved centuries ago as a deviation from the custom of burying wealth, widows, and slaves along with the deceased and continued to persist strictly under the patriarchal domain.

It says that though Islam is most liberal and explicit on the rights of women, particularly inheritance, its injunctions are interpreted in the most conservative manner that strengthen patriarchy rather than equity and justice. “The most debatable issue in this context includes half share of daughters, disentitlement of the descendents (children) of the pre-deceased child and of non-Muslim relative,” say the report.

The report says that the implementation of inheritance laws as to immoveable property is regulated under the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act 1967 but due to the multiplicity of laws involved therein and lack of close coordination between the relevant institutions the women are being denied right to inheritance. While highlighting the role of family laws it says that though there is no dearth of laws addressing the family issues unfortunately the prevailing policies and their implementations in Pakistan are not very clear about the rights of the divorced women.

It said that in the case of Muslims Personal Laws, the criteria for analysis was the primary sources of laws besides the constitutional guarantees, international commitments of Pakistan by virtue of being signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) and the recommendations of the previous commissions and committees on the status of women, which hold valid for non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan as well. The report says that the family laws have not been extended to Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA), as a result there are no family courts; the number of female judicial officers and lawyers is also negligible hence difficult for women to have access to justice.

It also says that in recent years there had been an increase in violence against women including honour killing, ‘Swara’ and ‘Vani’, the giving of a woman in marriage as ‘Badle-e-Sulh’ with a high rate of acquittal or award of higher punishment to the offenders of these crimes in Pakistan. This research study relies on the primary sources of law as the Constitution inter alia provides that: “All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”

The report says that the number of honour killing cases during 1997 to May 31 2007 in NWFP was 239 in which 141 cases were disposed of, in Balochistan was 57 in which 39 cases were disposed of, in Sindh 910 in which 293 cases were disposed of, in Punjab was 1,707 in which 1,142 cases were disposed of. The reported cases of acid throwing on women during 2001 were 0 in Sindh, 11 in Punjab, 38 in NWFP and 0 in Islamabad while during 2003 the cases increased as to two in Sindh, seven in Punjab, 0 in Balochistan and 68 in NWFP. NCSW Chairperson Prof Dr Arifa Sayeda, NCSW Member Seemi Kamal, Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal and renowned writer Noorul Huda Shah attended the launching ceremony of the report.
Source: Daily Times
Date:8/10/2007