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In the past couple of years, we have seen a promising gradual rise in raising awareness of women’s rights in Pakistan, and beyond raising awareness, these movements are slowly moving Pakistan towards implementing regulations that protect and promote women’s rights, such as the bill for Domestic Violence Act 2020.

While having the appropriate legislation is crucial to ensuring women’s rights; societal norms and implementation of laws remain major challenges to overcome. Such is the case of a neglected provision in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, which the majority of the women in Pakistan are unaware of and are particularly not told about when it is to be enacted, largely due to cultural and social norms.

According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, Muslim women in Pakistan have the right to divorce their husbands through clause 18 on their Nikah Naama, but most women are unaware of this right. Although this is a right accorded through Islamic law, the patriarchal mindset prevalent in Pakistan presents the largest obstacle towards women learning about and exercising their rights.

Why It’s Now No Longer Added by Women Getting Married?

The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 states in clause 8:

“Dissolution of marriage otherwise than by talaq.– Where the right to divorce has been duly delegated to the wife and she wishes to exercise that right, or where any of the parties to a marriage wishes to dissolves the marriage otherwise than by talaq, the provisions of section 7 shall, mutatis mutandis and so far as applicable, apply.”

While the Ordinance is still applied to date, this clause has been specifically overlooked for years now, as at this point, families do not even ask the bride and groom if they would prefer to discuss the utilization of the clause. Furthermore, a study suggests that more than 99% of women in Pakistan report that they had not been made aware of the provision for such a clause during their time of marriage, deeming the clause no longer applicable to them as it has already been signed. Moreover, even in courtroom marriages in Pakistan, women have the proclivity to not demand the right to a divorce under clause 18 of the Nikahnama which refers to Section 8 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961

While the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance is upheld to this day, its implementation is rarely ever used in Pakistani society, and while we do not encourage the addition of this clause just for the sake of giving women an easier path to divorce, the fact of the matter is that women are simply not being made aware of their legal rights, essentially depriving them of making their own choices.

What Happens if a Woman decides to get a divorce, without availing this right?

Simply put, women who do not avail of their right to divorce under clause 18 of the Nikahnama, have to endure a lengthy and tedious process to formally obtain a divorce. There is the provision of filing for a Khula or judicial divorce. In the case of filing for a Khula or judicial divorcethe dissolution of marriage is initiated by the wife and is granted by the court. The filing of the Khula is preceded by a three to five months long legal process, through which she loses her claim over the dower and – in a few instances – on preservation too. Finally, the woman must visit the Union/Arbitration Council for issuance of the concluding divorce certificates; which is a 90 days procedure in both cases.

Despite the benefits of the Khula and a few different clauses within the nikahnama; in most cases, the procedure of judicial divorce all but unnecessarily elongates the period of marriage, a period of time which could have been preserved if the wife had the right to divorce.

A Solution Towards Upholding Women’s Rights

In spite of the fact that some legal provisions have been made to uphold women’s rights, it is imperative to also ensure women are aware of their rights and are not exploited for their lack of legal knowledge. Furthermore, there are many women’s rights granted in Islam which are often neglected and left unimplemented in the eyes of the law, which should be ratified.

If your marriage seems to be on its last legs and divorce seems to be the only option, make sure to involve a lawyer to overlook your divorce procedures. Reach out to Sardar & Co.’s excellent team of family lawyers who can help you out in such a case. Contact us from anywhere in Pakistan.

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