Supreme Court Affirms Women’s Claim to Haq Mehr at Any Time

In an empowering move, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has recently ruled that women in Pakistan have the right to demand haq mehr at any time they choose. This decision marks a significant step towards empowering women and ensuring that their rights are upheld. The implication of this ruling represents the importance of women’s rights and the broader impact it can have on our society.

Haq mehr, also known as dower, is a fundamental right granted to women by Islam as well as the law of the country. The Holy Quran, Chapter 4 (Surah Al-Nisa), Verse 4 clearly states the following:

Give women you wed their due dowries graciously.”

[Referring to haq mehr/dower in Arabic, rather than the English meaning of dowry].

Haq mehr is a specified amount of money, jewelry or property that a husband pledges to pay or provide to his wife at the time of marriage or in the event of a divorce. It can be considered a mandatory gift, financial safety, or token of respect given by the husband to the wife.

Conventionally, this particular amount gets fixed when signing the nikahnama or marriage contract. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling has affirmed that women have the autonomy to request haq mehr whenever they feel the need, especially if a date for providing haq mehr has not been specified in the marriage contract. According to Section 10 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, if the nikahnama does not provide specific details regarding the method of dower payment, the entire dower amount will be considered payable upon request or demand. This includes all dower-related things, including cash, jewelry, property, furniture or other items.

Unfortunately in Pakistan, this fundamental right which provides women economic and financial safety is often overlooked. Even the general idea of a woman asking for her rights in this country is often perceived as a nuisance and often dealt with violence. In the instances where powerful and influential people are involved, it is extremely tough for women to take up this fight in courts. We are all aware of how easy it is for people (read: men) with power and money to flout law and justice at will.

Considering this backdrop, the Supreme Court’s decision comes as a powerful affirmation of women’s autonomy and agency within the institution of marriage as well as the power and right already bestowed upon them by Islam.

From an Islamic perspective, refraining from paying haq mehr is known to be a grave sin on the husband’s part as it is considered to be an unpaid debt, but then again, how many of Islam’s true objectives are followed in this country, especially in the context of how men treat women and how husbands treat their wives? The recent ruling not only recognizes the importance of financial security for women but also reinforces the idea that women have the right to assert their needs and not be denied their fundamental rights.

The ruling challenges societal norms and expectations surrounding women’s financial dependence on their husbands. By allowing women to demand haq mehr at any time, the court is encouraging a shift in the traditional power dynamic within marriages and promoting healthier, more leveled relationships between married partners. It signals that women should not be limited to predetermined conditions and should be able to exercise their rights as and when needed.

The ruling also emphasizes the importance of legal awareness among women. As women become more aware of their rights, they can actively participate in shaping the legal landscape and ensuring the enforcement of their entitlements. It is crucial for women to understand the implications of this ruling and feel empowered to assert their rights when necessary.

The verdict serves as a significant milestone in the long and tiresome journey towards gender equality. It not only aims to empower women within the institution of marriage but also challenges oppressive societal norms and promotes financial independence. As we celebrate this step forward, we sincerely hope that more women feel comfortable in trusting the existing legal system to assist them in getting their due share, but it has to be a team effort – sensitization towards the issue is direly required to embrace and understand the need for these changes. Not only do private settings, like households, and institutional settings, like schools and universities, need to be equipped with this knowledge, proper structural reforms also need to be implemented within the legal system by educating officers from the top tier to the very bottom. Insensitive attitudes and lack of proper training are some of the major factors which lead to the system’s inadequacies and have direct consequences for women.

In order for progressive reforms to have any real effect, we need to collectively work towards fostering an environment where women’s rights are respected, upheld and championed.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which she might be associated.

Purniya Awan

Author: Purniya Awan

The writer is the General Manager of MINT PR. She is a gender studies graduate of York University, has been nominated as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum and is a former member of Youth Parliament Pakistan. She tweets @PurniyaA