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Gender Justice and Marriage Contract in Pakistan

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Of the wide ranged social causes of violence against women, Nikah Naama becomes a major cause, which is the formal written marriage contract between a man and a woman. Marriage contract and its standard clauses are prepared in light of Muslim laws, providing various social securities to a woman. A woman's social security in the marriage contract is represented by Clauses 18, 19, 20, 21 addressing right to divorce, explanation on Husband's right to divorce, instructions on dower and woman's lifestyle maintenance, and about the right of a woman to allow or disallow second marriage.

To secure the women and address all kinds of atrocious treatments e.g. violence, social injustice, gender injustice etc, the marriage contract includes Clause 17 instructing on special arrangements and agreements for securing a women's marital life.

In general major stakeholders are either less aware or insensitive to importance of the marriage contract and its role in eradicating social injustice and gender inequality.  The state entrusts the responsibility of marriage contract registration with Union Council Administration, the union administrators are themselves insensitive to marriage contracts importance and its social effectiveness. Another major stakeholder, the marriage contract convenor (Nikkah Khawan) who is responsible for family law enforcement at the contract time, treats the contract document merely as an ordinary paper and plays a major role in uselessness of the marriage contract by deleting (cutting) Clauses 16 to 22 without informing the two contracting parties.

The contracting parties (marrying men and woman and their families) are themselves not informed of the importance of the marriage contract. Musalihat-e-Anjumans, another major stakeholder responsible to arbitrate marital disputes and act as a mutual decision making body, generally make decisions based on members sole understandings and judgements irrespective of the marriage contract.

Such practices and unawareness to the marriage contract importance nourish the situations where women face domestic violence, forced divorce, ill reasoned second marriage and other in-just situations. When women go to the courts, the courts issue judgements in light of the marriage contract (with unfilled Clauses 16-22), forced to issue judgements in favour of the husband.

Women suffer from injustice and violence just because of unawareness and general stakeholder insensitivity with the marriage contract. Women suffer a divorced social status because of unclear marriage contract; suffer from economic slacks as get deprived of the dower. Unclear and incomplete contract clauses in marriage also deprive women from justice in the courts.

Easing social justice and a comfortable family life is thus dependent on the marriage contract that a man and a woman signs, signifying clauses 13-21 of the contract, enabling a woman get security from many upcoming hardships. It's the time to formally take steps to build capacity of the social actors and increase general awareness on significance of marriage contract, thus eradicating basic cause of domestic, gender, social, and legal injustice.

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