Second marriage thoughts? Government says ask wife first

Second marriage thoughts? Government says ask wife first
Azhar Haidari, 23, from Multan, with his wives. According to a revised marriage contract to be issued by Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology next week, a husband will no longer be able to marry a second time unless his wife gives permission first. (File photo by Azhar Haidar)
Updated 18 October 2018

Second marriage thoughts? Government says ask wife first

Second marriage thoughts? Government says ask wife first
  • Islamic body to revisit wedding contract keeping women’s rights in mind
  • New draft to be released next week will do away with 1960s’ version, council says

ISLAMABAD: Intent on ensuring that women in Pakistan exercise their right to marriage in a more informed manner, the government on Thursday said that it would revise the clauses of the legal documents that are used to solemnize weddings as early as next week.

Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) announced plans to rewrite the “nikahnama” – or marriage contracts — to ensure future brides are assured of their rights as per Islam. The CII is an advisory body which oversees that the laws and regulations pertaining to marriages in Pakistan are in accordance with the Islamic Sharia law. 

“The most widespread issue is that the girl who is to be married does not know her rights because those performing the marriage do not inform her about them,” Professor Dr Qibla Ayaz, chief of the CII, told Arab News. 

At present, those looking to get married are referred to the marriage contract that was drafted in the 1960s. And while it encapsulates the most important rights for women, these are quite often redacted, thereby making it common for a pre-filled contract to be handed over to the bride to be, instead of discussing the conditions with her first – a prerequisite in Islam. 

The most significant of these rights include: limiting her husband from marrying a second time unless he seeks her permission first; and most importantly, a set of sub-conditions which allows her to end the marriage based on either of the following: if the husband has gone missing for more than four years, failure to support the wife financially or emotionally for two years, if the husband is going to be imprisoned for seven or more years, reasons of sexual neglect or impotency, if the husband has contracted a sexually-transmitted disease, if he has developed psychological issues or is suffering from leprosy for more than two years and domestic violence on the part of husband, among others. 

“Our effort is to protect women as much as possible. For example, while the right to dissolve the marriage is already included in the present contract, the nikahkwan [those performing the nikah] often strikes this off,” Dr Ayaz said, adding that it is imperative for the woman to reads the clauses carefully before signing on the dotted line. 

Trying to put an end to the practice, the CII said it would revise the language of the contract, making it difficult for those adhering to such tactics to continue with the trend. 

“We have procured a draft of the Muslim Personal Laws of India which we found to be very comprehensive…we want it to be reflected in the nikahnama,” Dr Ayaz said.

The Muslim Personal Law Application Act, established in India in 1937, was the legislation introduced to deal with all matters related to succession, charity, marriage and divorce in accordance with the tenets of Islam. 

The new draft, expected to be released as early as next week, will clearly outline the woman’s right to divorce and ensure this clause is not tampered with before the bride signs the marriage contract. 

In addition to establishing the grounds for separation, the council will also look to ensure that the woman is accorded her right to the haq meher, or alimony, if the couple chooses to separate.

Asking for one’s haq meher is often frowned upon in the Pakistani society, something which the CII is serious about addressing, as the clause was introduced in Islam to safeguard the bride. 

And while the nikahnama is set to undergo a major transformation, the CII said it will also look into revising the divorce contract. Last month, the council had said it would review the rights of men to divorce their wives simply by saying the word “talaq” or divorce three times.