In a landmark ruling the Lahore High Court has granted relief to a divorcee mother, ordering her former husband to pay a monthly allowance for the upkeep of their three minor children living with the mother.
Noting that there was no law on the statute books to help such mothers, the ruling by Justice Fakharun Nisa said that certain lacunae in the law ought to be removed to safeguard the rights of divorced women.
She further stressed the need for parliament to amend the Family Laws Ordinance of 1961 to ensure that divorced women, particularly those with children, do not have to endure undue hardship.
The ruling makes good sense because it not only aims at helping divorced mothers but also at ensuring the upkeep of the children of divorced parents. In a society like ours where a majority of divorced women are not able to remarry because of social taboos, the ruling in question can lighten the burden of some of the unfortunate consequences of divorce, which often hapless women and their minor children are left to endure. The truth is that a vast majority of non-working divorced mothers and their children have often ended up in destitution.
The Family Laws of 1961 were a watershed in that they acknowledged the need to safeguard women’s rights at a time when divorce was not as common a social and human problem as it is today. As Justice Fakharun Nisa pointed out in her ruling, equality and natural justice demand that women who are divorced without sufficient reason and left at the mercy of a male-dominated society, be given a maintenance allowance to be provided on demand by their former husbands until they choose to remarry.
The judge’s ruling, urging parliament to act to fill the gaps in the existing laws so that the rights of women and children are safeguarded, merits urgent attention. Now with at least 33 per cent of the seats held by women legislators in the national and provincial assemblies, it is imperative that such legislation is made without delay or demar.