Recently Advocate Asma Zehra got candid with Fushia Magazine over issues of domestic violence and laws in Pakistan.
She is a high-court advocate with a degree in Law and Political Science. She has also enrolled in LL.M and is carrying out independent practice as well. She is a Founding Partner and the youngest female advocate who co-founded a law firm called Sayyid and Shaykh and practices civil, family, customs and taxation.
Zehra is also a motivational speaker working for women’s empowerment in her professional field, she also provides career guidance to all aspirant career-oriented women. She also runs an organization named Women in Law, an initiative by Young Lawyers.
Divorce & Khula
The conversation started with the difference between divorce and ‘khula’ to which the advocate replied that divorce is given by the husband, if he says ‘Talaq’ three times, he has given his wife a divorce.
Whereas ‘khula’ is the right of a woman, for which she has to waive off her ‘haq meher’ amount to dissolve her marriage by approaching the court.
If the husband gives divorce to the wife from his will, the ex-wife has the right of maintenance (for a certain period), however, if the woman takes a khula the right of maintenance is also dissolved.
If a woman is at her parent’s home for say 1-year and the divorced is served at the end of that year, she can claim the right of maintenance amount, but will not receive anything if she takes khula.
Grounds on which a woman may seek khula include:
- Desertion by husband for 4years,
- Failure to maintain for 2 years
- Husband contracting a polygamous marriage in contravention of established legal procedures,
- Husband’s imprisonment for 7 years,
- Husband’s failure to perform marital obligations for 3 years,
- Husband’s continued impotence from the time of the marriage
- Husband’s insanity for two years or his serious illness
- Wife’s exercise of her option of puberty if she was contracted into marriage by any guardian before the age of 16 and repudiates the marriage before the age of 18 (as long as the marriage was not consummated),
- Husband’s cruelty (including physical or other mistreatment, unequal treatment of co-wives),
- Any other ground recognised as valid for the dissolution of marriage under Muslim law
Domestic Violence in Pakistan
Moving on to domestic violence, Advocate Asma Zehra was asked what should be the first step if a woman or girl is facing violence in her marriage. To this, the advocate replied that the girl should inform her parents, once the girl takes this first step, she can find the courage to go further. If one lingers, then it takes more time and you eventually find more excuses.
The court, law, and the Domestic Violence Act, will provide the woman with her rights, but for that, she has to be the one who takes the first step. Husbands who are found guilty are fined and sentenced to 6 months or 1 year of jail time, and other laws can be taken up if needed.
Asma Zehra also shared that women who think they do not have enough proof or do not have the courage to file a complaint directly can ask a third-person such as her parents, someone who may have witnessed the abuse, to file it. In the situation of lack of proof, if the witness is strong and can support the victim’s case, the court is tilted in their favour, however, it is advisable to have pictures or some sort of proof.
Why Women in Pakistan Fail to Report Domestic Violence
The advocate shared that the simple and major reason for women not coming forth is because they want to save their homes. If a woman goes against a man in court over domestic violence, he will not accept her once he comes back from jail even though the law states that if the girl has filed a case, the man can’t throw her out of the house.
There is fear in women and because of it she fails to come forth, it is very rare to get domestic violence cases in court especially due to lack of proof and the fear of character assassination. Domestic violence is a vast term, and not restricted to the husband and wife. Anyone who is a victim, a mother, a sister, or a house help can file a claim if they have been subjected to any form of violence be it physical or otherwise.
Furthermore, counselling options are available to the couple if they do not want to part ways and give their relationship a second chance.
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