Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Women’s empowerment:‘Society is not ready for women’s inheritance rights’


LAHORE:  “Unfortunately our society is not ready to accept women’s inheritance rights, as guaranteed by our religion and Pakistan’s constitution. It is the need of the hour to sensitize the younger generations about this issue,” Aurat Foundation Regional Coordinator Nabila Shaheen said at a seminar on Monday.
The seminar, on Women’s Inheritance Rights in Pakistan, had been organised by students of the Social Work Department at Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) in collaboration with Aurat Foundation.
Shaheen said the anti-customary practices law was passed in 2011 and section 498A, which was added later, stated that if someone refused to give a woman her rightful inheritance, the offender could be fined Rs1 million and imprisoned for 10 years. She said the chapters on women’s inheritance rights should be introduced in the curriculum.
She said Aurat Foundation’s mission to facilitate and strengthen civil society networks was significant for mobilizing public pressure to further women’s empowerment. She discussed the major achievements in this regard in the last decade, and mentioned the 33 per cent seats for women in local government and 17 per cent in national and provincial legislatures. She also spoke of the law against the so-called ‘honor’ killings and amendments to the Hudood ordinances and the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance (MFLO) that had been prepared, as well as development of a civil society draft bill on domestic violence and input in the law on sexual harassment.
Lawyer Ayaz Hussain briefed the students and participants about women’s inheritance rights and the laws addressing them. Hussain said the law recognised the deceased’s right to leave his property according to his will, but restricted that to one-third of his assets. The transmission of property by way of bequest was of secondary importance to the compulsory rules of inheritance designed for the material benefit of the family. He said in Pakistan, inheritance of a deceased Muslim’s property was regulated by the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 and Succession Act 1925. He said Muslims were subject to the principles of Sharia in matters of personal law, such as inheritance, during British rule, and this continued to be the case.
He said a female’s right to inherit was recognised in Sharia and could not be denied on the basis of a woman surrendering this right in favour of a male family member.
In her concluding remarks, the head of the LCWU Social Work Department Irum Shahid thanked the students and other participants for attending the seminar.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.

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