Denial of Property Inheritance Rights to Daughters

By: Fatima Batool

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For decades, women in Pakistan suffer due to the denial of their rightful share of inheritance in ancestral property. Women’s rights to property inheritance are safeguarded and guaranteed both under the Constitution of Pakistan and Shariah laws, yet majority of women has been unable to exercise them because of unenforced laws and religious injunctions. Women are destined to face severe exploitation and discrimination when strive to attain their justified legal rights.

The discourse has gained a currency that economic uplift and financial empowerment of women would provide greater social safety to more than half of country’s population. Granting women their due rights in inheritance and conferring equal social status will eventually eliminate social deprivations leading towards broader economic development and progress. Undeniably, it will be gigantic step to attain women’s emancipation and gender equality in the society.

Centuries old cultural norms and customary practices to keep women shackled in patriarchal setups are so overriding that not every womon can fight against them and mostly are unable to take such disputes to the courts of law. While dividing the legacy of parents, daughters and sisters are systematically kept deprived of their due shares. Sisters, having no other choice and power to decide are supposed to withdraw willingly and surrender their shares to brothers and nephews. They amicably sign off their right or they are reprimanded and cut off when trying to stand up against the wrongdoings of close family members.

Hefty dowry is often referred to as an alternative to all immovable property. Daughters are taught that they have been compensated in this way and sons are brought up in a manner that they deem themselves the only legitimate heir of father’s property in which any kind of division with sisters will bring shame to the family.

Hameeda Khatoon, 72 battled for four decades to get her justified share in the property of her deceased father. She started her fight after few years of her marriage and grew old in the corridors of civil and higher courts. Her own brothers kept her deprived of her piece of estate in her father’s legacy and were opponents in this long legal battle. She struggled to prove that she never willingly sacrificed her share in the form of gift in favor of her two elder brothers that they illegally possessed for years. Instead, they fraudulently got her share transferred in connivance of revenue field staff when she was a minor. Years after, on raising the matter in family, she was threatened, intimidated, socially boycotted and clearly told not to mess with the bygone matters further.

Hameeda’s resolve became more strengthen in the face of many failures and adversities. Multiple times she was tried to technically knock down by wrong statements and bribery in civil courts but she rose to every occasion. She was lucky and brave enough to finally prove maneuvering and forgery done by revenue staff in legal documents in her case after forty years.

Fourteen centuries ago, Islam recognized and conferred the right of woman to inherit from blood relations and the spouse. The right to inherit and own property has a close nexus with enjoying legal personality in a society that was not known in any other civilization.

In Pakistan, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1962 provides the edifice of inheritance laws. It defines legal heirs as blood relatives who are eligible to receive a share in a property after the owner’s death. Later, Land Revenue Act 1967, amendments in Succession Act, 1925, issuance of Succession Certificates by NADRA and passing of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, 2011 which clarifies u/s 498-A that depriving women of inheriting property by deceitful or illegal means shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to a time period of ten years but not less than five years. But have you ever seen any precedent or verdict to penalize brothers for robbing sisters of their right of inheritance?

Economic independence and women empowerment are still a far cry in our country. We have a long way to go to bring a change from within and to fight against the regressive approach. Despite immaculate legislations, nothing has been changed significantly because of deep rooted evil norms, traditions, unfair patriarchal system and lagging behind in introducing systems for efficient transfer of inheritance property to women. It is high time for the society to accept women’s inheritance right as a fundamental right. Families should promote to giving daughters their share in immovable property by discouraging dowry culture. Need is to not only change mindsets in this regard but also to take welfare measures by implementing concerning land laws through coercive apparatus.

Note:  This article doesn’t reflect the policy or opinion of Daily City News it is solely the opinion of writer.

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