KARACHI: How many girls have the privilege of having their rights safeguarded in their marriage contract? The answer to this seemingly benign question is, not many.
‘Qaaf Se Qanoon’, an initiative by SZABIST’s law school faculty, alumni and students has been educating people on their rights since August, 2015.
Hiba Thobani, the project coordinator of ‘Qaaf Se Qanoon’, spoke volumes on the given rights of an individual in relation to the marriage contract.
Islam gives many rights to a woman on the day she decides to leave her father’s abode and join her husband but this same woman fears to ask for her rights, she said.
Beginning her talk at T2F on Thursday evening, Thobani said, “In the nikahnama, we sign away our freedom to a man, hoping we will be financially secure, but without realising our rights. We don’t jot down the rights we are looking forward to [receiving], rather at the time of signing we cross out [the section], saying we are not asking for [our rights].”
According to her, marriage in Islam has both religious and social perspective. “It’s a social contract but without caring to read it, a girl signs it,” she said. She added that the nikahnama may be complex in Urdu but one should always be aware of the rights being guaranteed to them.
“Though the nikahnama is binding, many girls and their families probably don’t get into its nitty-gritty considering it a waste of time and most of all, who would talk about divorce at the time of the nikah?” said Thobani.
While going through each section in detail and pointing out the salient features, Thobani said now so much documentation is required before you move forward with a nikah.
The Muslim Family Law, 1961, which shines through in today’s nikahnama, has at least at least four sections dealing with mehr.
“Giving of mehr was and is obligatory on the groom and he must also provide financial security for his wife” she said.
Under section 17, a woman can ask for special conditions at the time of the marriage, which can and should be met. The most debatable point is section 18, which gives the husband the right to remove his wife’s right to divorce him.
“Our main aim is to promote legal literacy and break down the law for the common man to understand,” she told The Express Tribune .
As of September, 2016, the group has picked up three cases on pro bono basis – one on khulla, one on maintenance and the third on child custody.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2016.