Incomplete Nikahnamas Are a Threat to Women in Pakistan

A recent study on the situation of women’s marriage rights in Punjab, Pakistan, revealed troubling statistics. From 2016 and 2022, 60% of Nikahnamas (marriage certificates) were incomplete.

The findings were addressed at a working group meeting aimed at defending women’s marital rights across Pakistan by the National Commission for Human Rights and an independent research organization, Musawi.

The research uncovered various flaws in the nikah contracts. The bride’s CNIC number was not included in 48% of the contracts, with 75% of these brides aged 16 to 18.

Only 8% of the marriage contracts mentioned rights to a monthly allowance, while 39% crossed out or left blank the section for the Nafqah/Haq-Maher document. Furthermore, 51% of the nikah agreements lacked specific restrictions, just 24% listed the dates of registration, and only 6% specified the bride’s age.

The Chairperson of the NCHR, Rabiya Javeri Agha, underlined the importance of clarity in laws relating to the classification of a child. She claimed that different laws and regulations, such as Article 11-3 and Article 25A of the Constitution, had different interpretations of a child’s age, and she advocated for consistency in federal and provincial legislation.

Musawi CEO, Fatima Yasmin Bokhari, underlined the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration in pushing for marriage equality across provinces, implementing best practices, and facilitating cross-learning from different legislative frameworks, procedures, and practices.

NCHR Punjab Member, Nadeem Ashraf, shared his idea for systemic development and a common policy on marital rights throughout all provinces and the Federal Capital.

The working group, which includes representatives from the provincial assembly, civil society, government officials, and other key stakeholders, emphasized the importance of consistent marriage legislation as well as the execution of current marital rights laws and regulations. They also stressed the significance of increasing public understanding of the rights outlined in the nikahnama.