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Marriages by choice

Even more than a decade after the Supreme Court gave a crucial verdict allowing adult women to make their own choice in marriage, this message does not seem to have sunk home to the lower courts which decide most cases involving marriages by free choice.

Most recently, the Lahore High Court chided a young woman from Okara for entering into wedlock some three years ago of her own free will. She had recently been kidnapped by her parents who wished her to divorce her husband.

The woman in this case was fortunately allowed by the court to go with her husband, a traffic warden, after she expressed her desire to do so. However, this was not before the judge had asked her why she had ‘let down’ her parents who had taken care of her for so many years.

Similar action by the courts has taken place in the past with women sometimes prevented from going with husbands despite the fact that they are adults and have made their choice without duress.

The issue is one of mindsets. It is true that the law allowing marriages by choice is being upheld far more often than before. But problems clearly still exist. We hear again and again of ‘honour killings’ for this reason and of other attempts to force women into arranged marriages.

It seems that, even for the courts, tradition has a stronger hold than the law. This needs to change. The fact is that adult men and women have the right to decide whom they wish to spend their lives with. This must be respected by all parties involved. The fact that this does not happen is something we need to change.

It is clear the court action in the well-known Saima Arshad case, involving a young woman who opted to marry her tutor, is not enough. More needs to be done to drive the message home. This is possible only by launching a campaign at a wider level and making sure that greater acceptability in society is gained for marriages between two consenting adults.

Source: The Express Tribune

Date:11/21/2011

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