Official data gleaned by Dawn showed that 3,900 family cases were pending in the 28 courts of civil judges in the eight towns of Rawalpindi district in December 2006, nearly 1,200 more than a year ago.Almost 50 per cent of these cases related to women seeking dissolution of their marriages, according to an official of the Court of Senior Civil Judge of Rawalpindi who said specific data was not available.Advocate Khurram Shahzad Awan noted that more women had been going to courts for divorce after an amendment in the Civil and Family Courts Act 1964 took away the courts’ discretion to push for reconciliation over long periods.
Now the court has to decide the case after the three-month reconciliation period prescribed under the Muslim Family Law is over. And as it is not mandatory for the woman seeking divorce to appear personally in the court, the prospects of reconciliation recede further, the advocate said.No compromise means the court has to immediately pass decree of dissolution, he added.
Advocate Nasreen Akhtar, who specialises in family cases, holds a different view however. Though the amendment has made it easy for women to obtain divorce, it has made their life safer and more secure, she said.“Now women are more confident and their spouses more careful in their married life,” Ms Akhtar argued.
Nonetheless, she stressed on women to seek help from court only after exhausting all means of reconciliation “as once the case is before court the possibility of make-up vanishes”.
According to the woman lawyer, the atmosphere in courts “is not conducive to settle differences and strike a compromise”.Dr Iftikharun Nisa Hassan, Director, Women Research and Resource Centre Fatima Jinnah Women University, sees the rise in divorce cases as “awakening of women”.“Today women are getting educated and securing jobs and are less inclined to put up with inhuman treatment by their husbands. They are financially viable and seek second marriage for comfortable life,” she said.
Dr Hassan, a PhD in Women Studies, said that with social awareness increasing, the stigma associated with divorce had diminished to a great extent. “Nowadays parents are supportive of their daughters in case of failed marriages. They help them in their legal battles,” she observed.However, Dr Hassan was confident that the institution of family will not disintegrate in our country as it had in the West “for our social values are much stronger”.“The current rise in divorce rate is simply the exercise of rights by women, within the limits set by our religious and national laws,” she said.