The Impact Of Divorce On Women In Pakistan
Nikah is a sacred contract between a man and a woman subject to the payment of dower. This sacred trust can be rescinded when the spouses feel that they cannot discharge their marital obligations within the limits prescribed by Allah. In this regard, the man has the absolute right to put the marriage to an end by pronouncing talaq without any justification or court approval, while the woman who wishes to be free from marital tie either has to seek a divorce from the family court or ask her husband to declare the divorce. In the former case, the husband is under an obligation to give deferred dower to his wife while in the latter case, the wife is to leave her dower as a payment of compensation to her husband for setting herself free from the marriage bond.
The wisdom behind bestowing the right to declare divorce upon the husband is that the maintenance of wife is a divine injunction upon the husband. He is required to bear all the expenses of his wife i.e. food, clothing, lodging etc. according to his earning capacity and to pay dower to his wife. Thus he has to think twice before pronouncing divorce as he would have to suffer financial loss thereafter. Secondly, if the wife was given such a right, she could declare divorce immediately after receiving all the gifts and dower etc. But what if the husband for no reason divorces his wife? This article is basically intended to analyze the impact of divorce upon the women in our society, keeping in view the relevant laws prevailing in Pakistan.
The majority of women in Pakistan are unskilled mainly for the reason of mobility restrictions and thus not being able to earn their livelihoods. Traditionally, a woman in Pakistan is supposed to learn everything to make her husband happy. Hence, a woman after marriage serves her husband and does everything like taking care of the house and doing other household things like cooking etc in order to make her husband happy. If such a woman who has dedicated her life to serving the husband is divorced at the age when she has lost her youth, she has very limited options left given that women remain financially dependent on men in our society. The dower for which she is entitled is not enough to establish a business and the liability of husband to pay the maintenance is only extended till the observance of iddah. Under these circumstances, she has to seek the shelter for which she goes to her relatives who either refuse to keep her or draw her to Edhi Centre, Chipa Centre etc.
Under Islamic law, a woman cannot be left financially helpless. The husband is liable to pay maintenance to the divorced woman till the observance of Iddah. Thereafter, her children/relatives are liable to maintain her and if there are no children/relatives, the state is liable to provide for her fair and reasonable maintenance. Unfortunately, in our so-called Islamic country, the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 is prevailing which provides nothing for the alimony of divorced women. It may be pointed out here that in India The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act came into force in 1986 whereby the divorced women have been made entitled to the reasonable and fair provision of maintenance by her relatives after Iddah and in case there are no relatives, by the State Waqf Board. The magistrate has been empowered to make an order in this regard. No such law exists in Pakistan.
It may also be noted that law commission in its report no.103 recommended post-divorce mata’a (fair provision by husband) to wife. This has also not been implemented so far. In order to entitle a divorced woman to mata’a, the Commission proposed the following amendments in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961.
“In the said Ordinance, after Section 9, a new Section 9-A, shall be added, namely:
“9-A Mata’a. – Where the marriage is dissolved under Section 7 or Section 8, other than Khula or Mubbarat, the wife shall be entitled to Mata’a by the husband.”
To conclude my article in a few words, there is a need to protect divorced women in Pakistan. This can be done either by adopting the Indian law of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 or by making appropriate amendments in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, so that the divorced women can live with honour and dignity in Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.