LAHORE: In a country where women themselves are treated as property, not an iota of shock is experienced when a female is denied her rightful share in inheritance.
We live in a place where women are literally used to pay family debts, settle disputes and score revenge points. The perpetrators of these heinous injustices solely bank on women’s ignorance for the upkeep of their objectifying activities. Ignorance and under-education are what these patriarchal men bank on for their survival.
The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 was passed by the National Assembly (NA) of Pakistan on November 15, 2011.
Mehargarh NGO Executive Director (ED) Maliha Hassan while speaking to Pakistan Today said that the passing of the law was followed by a shift in society’s paradigm regarding women’s inheritance.
“Soon after the law was passed, there was a significant rise in women demanding their share in inheritance and attaining it as well. They took action once they knew that there was something that they could do about it,” said Maliha.
“Of course, there is more to these cases. The families of these women, brothers, in particular, were not pleased with the demands, to say the least. However, they complied with the law knowing that they could very well be taken to court for their inequitable actions,” the social worker added.
Now, although quite a few crepuscular rays are bursting through the dark-clouded sky in terms of women being able to push their way through repressive barriers, we need a clear sky for the sustenance of a truly healthy life.
On September 14, the Human Rights Ministry of Pakistan while taking a step in this direction launched an awareness campaign which includes the introduction of a helpline 1099 to provide free legal advice on inheritance matters of women under Islamic jurisprudence and the Constitution.
The helpline, however, is always busy and asks you to call back later no matter what time you call at. Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari could not be contacted despite several attempts to get a comment regarding this issue.
Here is a crash course on the basics of women’s inheritance rights that every Pakistani woman must be made aware of.
TYPES OF PROPERTY:
The first important thing to know is the kinds of property that exist and can be inherited by legal heirs.
There are two types of property: movable and immovable property. Movable property includes cash and stock, and immovable property constitutes of land, houses and vehicles.
INHERITANCE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM:
It is ironic that Pakistani women are deceived out of their rights of inheritance in the name of Islam when it was Islam itself that introduced the concept of women’s right to property for the first time in human history.
Before Islam, the inheritance would trickle down from male descendant to male descendant. Islam actually changed this dastardly concept by elevating the status of women.
“Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind.” (Quran 4:7).
“It is shameful that women are talked out of their inheritance through emotional blackmail and family pressure,” said Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Dr Qibla Ijaz in a video message released by the ministry on the day the announcement of a helpline was made.
The dispute now comes down to the ‘share’ a woman can have in inheritance. Male heirs are always fully aware or notified by lawyers about the specifics of shares according to Islam. They are already in a more privileged position yet they often steal or grab more than their fair share; their cups filled to the brim.
Islamic laws regarding women’s share in material successions state that
- When children are to receive an inheritance from parents, a male relative receives a share equal to that of two females applies. The logic behind this is the Islamic legal presumption that a brother has an obligation to provide for a sister’s financial support out of the inherited wealth.
- Parents who inherit from a deceased child inherit one-sixth of the property each if the deceased child is survived by a child of his or her own.
- Both parents are eligible to receive inheritance whether the deceased child leaves or does not leave behind children and siblings.
- In a few circumstances, women are to inherit half the share available to men who have the same degree of relation to the deceased.
- The sister of a childless man inherits half of his property upon his death, while a brother of a childless woman inherits all of her property.
INHERITANCE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN CONSTITUTION:
According to Section 498-A of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, depriving women of inheriting property by deceitful or illegal means shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to ten years but not be less than five years or with a fine of one million rupees or both.
Cases of women not getting their rightful share in property is ubiquitous in Pakistan irrespective of social class. Women from the lower, as well as, middle and upper classes are not anywhere near the financially stable point they should be Islamically.
According to a press release by a non-governmental organisation, AGHS legal aid cell, a survey conducted in January 2017 revealed that 80 per cent women report not getting any share in inheritance.
Not only are women murdered on property disputes, but they are also forcibly made to surrender their inheritance rights, often by forced marriage to the Quran. Any claim to inherited property is considered a sin by the male heirs of her family and she is subjected to rabid violence.
Women are oppressed and kept in the dark so that the property remains solely with the male members of the family. There is no other explanation for this than greed and the maintenance of patriarchy.
One reason behind the reason for this injustice, besides fear of violence, is the unawareness of inheritance rights among women. They do not even consider putting up a fight by going to courts when their inheritance rights are denied by parents, husbands and brothers. They are under the impression that they are not protected by a legal structure at all.
The objective behind the snatching of inheritance lies in plain greed and the need to maintain patriarchal values by not letting women gain any socio-economic power.
Maliha Hassan, while speaking about the weapons of this battle of rights, said that smoothing out the legal process regarding this issue is the need of the hour.
“Further ease should be created by holding judiciary and executives accountable. If an inheritance case is brought to the courts then it should be out of the way in a justifiable amount of time,” she concluded.