ISLAMABAD - A study on women’s marriage rights revealed that 86 per cent Nikkah Registrars (NRS) in Lahore believed the bride was not competent enough to negotiate terms of her nikkahnama, 85 per cent believed that delegating the right to divorce to women in the nikkahnama will increase the divorce rate and 92 per cent believed the wife’s right to maintenance is subject to obedience to her husband.
The data was shared on Tuesday at the launch of “Diagnostic Study of Nikkahnamas in Punjab: A Review of Women’s Marriage Rights (Diagnostic Study).” The study was developed by the Centre for Human Rights (CFHR) in collaboration with Musawi and the National Commission for Human Rights. The study assessed the status of women’s marriage rights to better understand gaps in the existing legislative and institutional framework that hinder women’s access to and implementation of marriage rights in Punjab.
The study reviewed 1100 nikkahnama and interviewed 105 Nikkah Registrars in 14 Union Councils of 2 pilot districts in Punjab including Lahore and Pakpattan (2020- 2021) besides analysing the related legislative and implementation frameworks. Key issues identified by the study include gaps in the enforcement and implementation of existing laws such as the Punjab Muslim Family Laws Amendment 2015, which prohibits crossing out of columns of the Nikkahnama or leaving them blank. Moreover, perceptions, beliefs, understanding and capacity of NRs on marriage rights and laws; limited oversight and accountability of NRS; inadequate understanding of the validity of marriage and inconsistencies in nikkahnama form, format and clauses all impact access to key marriage rights, especially of women.
In Pakpattan, the study shows that the bride’s CNIC details were missing in 58 per cent of the nikkahnammas and 23 per cent did not record the age of the bride. Only 8 per cent included the right to a monthly allowance and 2 per cent gave the wife the right to divorce. A survey with nikkah registrar’s in Pakpattan revealed that 60 per cent consider consent given under duress as valid for the purposes of a marriage. Interestingly, 58 per cent of nikkah registrars believe that Hag Mehr is not a mandatory requirement for a valid nikkah,6 per cent believed that child marriage is legally valid if the guardian gives permission and 40 per cent believe that Haq Mehr is not the sole property of wife.
In addition, 78 per cent believed women’s right to work is subject to their husband’s permission and 61 per cent believed Khula is not an independent right of women to seek divorce. In Lahore, the bride’s CNIC details were found missing in 15 per cent of the nikkahnamas, 26 had no column for CNIC details, 9 did not record the age of the bride and 31 were different from the standard nikkahnama form. Only 9.7 per cent of nikkahnamas included the right to monthly allowance and only 3 percent gave the wife the right to divorce.