Sunday May 29, 2022

World Day of Families today: Distrust is to blame for family break-ups

May 15, 2022

LAHORE : Every year May 15 is observed as the International Day of Families. There are happy families and there are unhappy families. There are families that fail to resolve their differences in the confines of their homes and end up in courts. To understand what is eroding family’s fabric in our society, The News visited Family Courts and talked to several families that are into litigation and lawyers who attend to family cases.

The family courts in the city have increased manifold just like the population. There are 20 Family Courts in Lahore and five Guardian Courts. On average there are 1,500 cases in one court and a judge hears 100 cases a day. All Family Courts have got additional charge of Guardian Courts. The courts are scattered but there is more rush now. Saturday is the day of the week when court allows and arranges meetings of severed children with their other parent, mostly fathers. There was a list of 86 children due to meet their fathers from 2-5:00 pm this Saturday. On other days 15-20 children come for meetings.

Advocate Hafiz Jamil contests, “Father is the provider but he only gets to see children for one or two hours twice a month. He can take children only for a day. Why? Why can’t he take his children along with him for a week? Mothers are custodians in 91 percent of the cases.”

The meeting room, a court, was full of children, their fathers and few grandparents. They were seated on sofas in an air-conditioned room. The adults had their full attention on their respective children. They had brought toys, drinks and packets of chips to entertain the children.

Little children in their best clothes, holding a maternal grandfather, a maternal uncle or a mother’s hand, walked towards the Guardian Court meeting room. It was May 14, 2:00 pm and very hot. There was no watercooler in sight. Two little boys, 4 and 6-year-olds, had waited for their fathers for an hour. Both of them were thirsty. The four-year-old was nagging his Mamoo to leave for home, that he did not want to meet anyone. The little boy was going to meet his father for the first time. He was two-month-old when his mother took khula from his father who would beat her on instigation of his sister. Now the father has filed a case to meet his child and still had to turn up even after one hour long wait.

The 6-year-old had come with his mother whom his father divorced two years back. He was lying on the concrete bench, exhausted with heat, waiting for his father to arrive. The fellow would nag his wife on one pretext or the other, until he divorced her.

A woman who had brought her 7-year-old daughter to meet her father, said, “When he came to know I had conceived a girl. He kicked me between the legs and said, get it aborted. I landed in hospital. The girl was born anyway but the fellow divorced me. I live with my mother. He wants to meet the child and I bring her here. He gives my Rs6,000 as maintenance which is peanuts. God knows what the future holds for me and my child.”

An old man at the court, a paternal grandfather, contested that the Guardian and Ward Act does not afford him the right to meet his grandchildren.

A senior lawyer in the Family Courts, Advocate Akhtar Mahmood Malik says, “We need guidance from home and family to prevent people from coming here. People come here to teach a lesson to the other party which instead teaches them a lesson. Litigants approach courts to snatch justice from others.”

Another lawyer at another family court seconded these views. “Women pay lawyers to prevent children from meeting their fathers while men want to screw their former wives and give them a tough time. They can give them money by hand or through bank transfer but they choose to pay for maintenance through ‘Form 32’. Money deposited here is as hard to recover as a motorcycle from ‘Maut ka kunwan’ (death well). This is sorrowful,” said Barrister Mian Farooq who does family cases. He said, “Men who come to us tell us their wives do not want to live with their families (in-laws). Girls don’t say this but this is true and a major underlying reason why families split.” A large number of people who come here have trust issue and of intolerance, many lawyers said. A young lawyer said recently a man wanted to divorce his wife for not sharing her facebook password. The judge saved the marriage. Barrister Khadija Siddiqi also received a case last month where break-up was averted with the court’s intervention, but the point is while people are ready to resolve differences in court, they are not prepared to do so in their homes.

Advocate Sher Zaman Wattoo said, “One who suspects his wife as unfaithful is actually himself unfaithful. When two people are not fulfilling their responsibilities, a third person steps in and destroys their relationship. The ones to suffer most are children.” A number of men distrust their wives and fear they are unfaithful, it came up.

Advocate Shazia Ishaq sees many problems arising from use of social media. “Young people need to be educated and made aware of what marriage entails before they actually tie the knot. The families should take care of their grooming and this education should start six months before marriage,” she said.

Spouses need to learn to respect each other, listen to each other, share the household chores which would give them and their partner free time. Caring, patience, expressing gratitude for the little things that make our lives easy and always looking for the good in our spouse and people in general, builds strong bonds. Not snapping at small mistakes of the other person, withholding complaints, not relaying them to our mother, siblings and friends, rather talking to our spouse about the hurt at an opportune time, would improve our relationship. When we relay our grouse against our spouse or in-laws to people outside the immediate family with whom we are living, it does us harm. We most likely forgive them and become friends again but the people who have heard harsh things from us about someone, will not forget and that often become problematic, often for us and our loved ones.