The Peshawar High Court, Mingora Bench (Darul Qaza), has recently taken notice of an important social issue of parents abandoning their daughters who move family courts for resolving their matrimonial disputes, specially seeking dissolution of their marriages, which is hitherto considered a taboo in the society.

There are a number of such cases wherein women had to take shelter in government-run Darul Aman (shelter home) in Swat after they were abandoned by their family members because of taking matrimonial disputes to family courts.

A two-member bench consisting of Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Wiqar Ahmad took notice of the issue on Nov 9 while hearing a petition filed by an inmate of Swat Darul Aman seeking her release. She claimed that she had been kept in confinement at the Darul Aman against her will.

The woman, belonging to Shangla district, was sent to Darul Aman by a judicial magistrate on Nov 13, 2020, on her request at that time for her safety as she had been facing life threats from her husband’s family as well as her own family members for seeking khula (separation) from her husband. She claimed that her in-laws, including her father-in-law, had been treating her badly and torturing her.

After straying there for almost a year she moved the high court stating that she was an adult and was kept in confinement at Darul Aman. She requested the court to set her free.

The bench accepted her plea and directed the administration of Swat’s Darul Aman to set her free. The bench also took notice of the issue as some other petitions of identical nature were also fixed before it.

The bench noted that the respective petitioners had been lodged in Darul Aman just for the reason that they had matrimonial disputes with their spouses and for that matter they had approached the concerned family courts, but the irony was that due to that reason their parents/families had also abandoned them and even did not provide them any shelter/accommodation in their respective houses.

“Approaching the competent court for redressal of her matrimonial grievances is right of a female and same has not only been recognised by laws of the land, but the Islamic Shariah as well,” the bench observed.

It further observed: “We do not see any reason why parents of a lady not accept her when she seeks separation from her husband. The parents while abandoning their daughters do not think that after release from Darul Aman, where would they live and what sort of situations and perils they will face when they have no abode of their own to live in.”

The bench now wants to devise a way out in such a predicament by seeking assistance from representatives of lawyers’ community in its jurisdiction. It has issued notices to the presidents of Peshawar High Court Bar Association, Mingora bench, Swat Bar Association and all other district and tehsil bar associations in its jurisdiction.

The bench fixed Dec 1 for next hearing, directing that those presidents who did not find it convenient to appear before it, may apply for hearing through video link from their respective districts.

Advocate Fazal Amin, who represented the petitioner and is also counsel in some other identical cases, told Dawn that this was in fact an important issue as women who indulged in matrimonial legal disputes often faced resistance from their parents and had nowhere to go except the government-run crisis centres.

He said that living in a crisis centre was like imprisonment and after remaining there for some time they often moved high court for their release from there. He added that a crisis centre could not be a substitute for home and keeping an inmate there for indefinite period was impossible.

The lawyer said that it was also a matter of concern where these women would go after coming out of Darul Aman. He said that the society needed to be made aware of the plight of such women and there should be social acceptance for those seeking settlement of family disputes through courts.

Legal experts dealing with family laws believe that parents normally disapprove settlement of matrimonial disputes through courts by their daughters and that is a major reason for abandoning them. They believe that social protection for such females needed to be increased by the government as well as civil society groups.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021

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