::Divorce rate in Pakistan

LAHORE – Marriage is a funny institution. It begins with much fanfare, be it a product of love or arranged by family. Some consider early marital life to be the most fulfilling. But many couples experience negative changes after they start living together and become used to each other’s habits. Arguments and fights become the order of the day and the husband and wife become intolerable to each other and they opt for divorce. The fanfare with which it began meets a silent end.

Increasing divorce rate: The divorce rate has been on the rise in Pakistan over the last decade. In Lahore city alone more than 100 divorces are registered in family courts in a day. The divorce rate is increasing not only in the upper class of society but also in lower and middle classes. From February 2005 to January 2008 approximately 75, 000 divorce cases had been registered. From February 2008 to May 2011, 1, 24141 divorce cases were registered. Around 2, 59064 separations have taken place in the provincial metropolis over the last decade. In 2010, 40,410 separation cases were registered in the city’s family courts and 13,500” divorces have been filed so far in 2011.

Experts put down social change as the main reason for a rising number of divorces. More and more women are now able to live on their own and are now fully aware of their rights. Experts say career-oriented women are more prone to taking divorce than housewives. Experts describe forced marriages, lust, infidelity, joint family system, misunderstandings, lack of trust, financial pressures and differences in social status as other reasons for a high divorce rate.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Solicitor Zafar Iqbal, who is an expert in family laws, said the divorce rate increased after amendments to Muslim Family Court Act in 2001. He blamed non-government organizations (NGOs) and the electronic media for an increasing number of divorces. “NGOs are not fully aware of our societal fabric; they only raise slogans of freedom. The media is exploiting women; women have become a product you can buy or sell easily,” he said. Iqbal said 85 percent of love marriages end up in separations. Even couple having children do not hesitate to take divorce; resultantly children’s lives are ruined and they become a victim of inferiority complex, he added.

He said after amendments to the family laws it has now become easier to take divorce. He said judges who hear divorce cases lack experience and sometimes announce verdict in the first hearing.

Another lawyer Javed Abbass Mirza said in the past the word ‘divorce’ was a taboo in Pakistani society, but now people do not feel ashamed of getting divorce. He said women come to file their cases along with their parents, which shows that parents support their daughters in getting divorce. He said women are acquiring higher education and contributing to every sector of society and they are not a burden anymore. “Working women who are financially strong are less willing to save their marriages and can quickly opt for divorce. When a woman is financially strong, she doesn’t feel the need to compromise,” he said. Mirza said divorce is increasing mostly among couples between ages 22 and 30.

Psychiatrist Irfan Muneer said the divorce rate is higher among educated families. He said laws have been made which support women seeking divorce and the whole procedure has been made easier. Muneer said Pakistan is a male-dominated society and men want their wives to stay back home, look after their children and not to think about their careers. “This situation becomes worse when both sides refuse to compromise and show egotistical attitude. Lack of tolerance and unwillingness to compromise is playing a vital role in increasing number of divorces in Pakistan,” he said.

Another psychiatrist Najeeb Zaheer said Indian and western cultural invasion is aggravating the situation. He said females who watch TV channels want to buy costly items at all cost, sometimes at the expense of their marriage. He said husbands’ ego also had a role in an increasing number of divorces. He said divorced couple’s children live an unhealthy life and therefore parents should have to realize that they have a responsibility towards their children. “Marriage is a big decision in one’s life, and should be taken, only when one is mature enough to handle all that comes with it. Forced marriages and early marriages are a reality in Pakistan and need to be stopped,” he said.

Atique whose parents separated when he was only three years old said, “I could never understand why parents opted for divorce. Parents should think about their children as well while taking such decisions.” Momina, 25, who parents separated when she was a child, blamed third party influence for increasing divorces. She said couples should sort out issues on their own, rather than allowing someone else to interfere in their lives.

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