Reforms urged to include age column in Nikahnama, allow women to file polygamy complaint

By Yousuf Katpar
May 23, 2024
A representational image showing a bride signing Nikah papers. — X/iris_petal_dew/File

In a bid to protect women from marital injustices, the Sindh Human Rights Commission has urged legislative and policy reforms to strengthen laws and their effective enforcement for the protection of women’s marriage rights.


In a letter written to Syed Khalid Hyder Shah, additional chief secretary, local government department, SHRC Chairperson Iqbal Ahmed Detho outlined a set of recommendations, including the inclusion of the bride and groom’s age in the Nikahnama, empowering women to file complaints against their husbands over polygamy, and establishing clear guidelines for the licensing of Nikah registrars.

He said the SHRC partnered with Musawi, a research organisation, to support legislative and policy reforms, interventions and advocacy for the overall strengthening of laws and their implementation for the protection of women’s marriage rights in Sindh. They reviewed the legal framework and its practical implementation for protection of women’s marriage rights and came up with a set of proposed reforms in the shape of key recommendations, he said.

Listing the recommendations, Detho said a CNIC column to record the age of the bride and the groom be added to the Nikahnama through an amendment to Nikahnama Form II Muslim Family Law Rules 1961 in light of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 and the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Rules, 2016.

He said Nikah registrar be legally required to fill out all columns of Nikahnama with accurate information provided by the bride and groom and penalty be imposed for non-compliance in this regard.

He said there should be some criteria for the grant of a licence to the Nikah registrar. “Currently there are no rules or regulations on this. A criterion can be added through Amendment to Rule 7 of MFLO or Amendment to Local Government Rules,” the SHRC chairperson proposed.

Furthermore, he called for allowing a woman to file a complaint as an aggrieved party for polygamy through an amendment to Rule 21 (Complaints) of Muslim Family Law Rules 1961 and the punishment for illegal second marriage be enhanced through an amendment to Section 6 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961.

He said that a woman should also be able to notify the union council directly if she has been divorced by her husband through an amendment to Section 7 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961. “Existing legal framework only asks men to notify UC in case of divorce and imposes a penalty on the husband for not notifying the UC,” he added.

In 1976, Punjab brought an amendment to Rule No. 21 of Punjab Muslim Family Rules 1961, which relates to the filing of complaints under the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, allowing a wife to lodge a complaint directly with the court as “an aggrieved party” against her husband if he marries for second time without the permission of the Arbitration Council.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then NWFP, in 1992, made an amendment to the West Pakistan Rules under Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, substituting the words ‘Union Council’ with an ‘aggrieved party’. In Sindh, Balochistan, and Islamabad, only the Union Council can file a complaint against polygamy.