Rights of divorced women highlighted -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Rights of divorced women highlighted

KARACHI, July 26 2006: Ineffectiveness of prevailing laws relevant to the divorced women in Pakistan and loopholes in the legal system were highlighted in a consultative advocacy forum on “Impact of Family Laws on the Rights of Women in Pakistan”, organised by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), on July 25.

The discussion was based on the in-depth policy research carried out by Syeda Viquar-un-Nisa Hashmi, policy researcher from NCSW Islamabad, on the rights of divorced women. She said that out of the prevailing 51 Family Laws, only seven are linked to the rights of divorcees and those too are not explicitly defined for a woman to maximally benefit from it.

ìThere is no legal provision on the rights of a female divorcee in Family Laws except a provision on Parsi women’s right to remarry and the entire authority to interpretation of these lies in the hands of the judiciary, which is unfair.î Rights of the divorced women, as enlisted, are dower, maintenance for the woman during and after Iddat, maintenance for children (if any), guardianship and custody of children, return of dowry, right to remarry, decent and kind treatment and a share in inheritance in the case of Talaq-al-Marz, that a wife of an ailing husband has right to his property in case of his death.

These rights, though guaranteed by Islam, are unfortunately defunct in the country. She said that there is a lack of provision regarding divorced women’s right to dower and there is no provision for a mother’s right to the custody of her child in Guardian and Wards Act either. However, Rashida Patel, President Pakistan Women Lawyers Association (PAWLA) argued that the legal proceedings do not take more than three months time and claim for the dower amount (Mehar) would only delay the legal process.

Nada Saleem, a resident of Defence area and a victim of these problems, talked about the incompetence of union councilors. Her case was highlighted during the session where she said that she had filed a divorce against her husband 90 days ago but is being denied the right by a counselor in Gulshan-e-Iqbal who refuses to proceed with her case by terming it to be an unjustified demand.

Nada said that she is upset with the complicated proceedings and that the question of validity cannot be raised as her husband had contented and given her the right to divorce at the time of their marriage. A participant added that because the Nikah is a legal contract whose terms and conditions are mutually approved and signed by the bride and the groom, the court should not be allowed to question the rights guaranteed by either one of them to the other. She added that she was ready to forego her dowry and dower amount but could not afford delay in legal processing any longer.

Simi Kamal, NCSW member from Karachi, said that the problem lies at the legal end federal laws have to be reviewed in conformity with Shariah as the women seeking divorce have no such requirement to go to a counselor for manifestation of their demands. She said that such problems give birth to social stigma and embarrassment faced by the divorcee.

Despite ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), women are not guaranteed their due rights in Pakistan. It was recommended that the return of dowry should be made mandatory on the husband and the wife must be given property declaration owned by him.

The NCSW is a statutory body working for the emancipation of women, equalisation of opportunities and socio-economic conditions among men and women and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The main functions of the commission include examination of laws, policy and other measures taken by the government for women development and to make suitable recommendations to the concerned authorities.
Source: The News
Date:7/26/2006