A woman’s choice

October 24, 2021

The government has done away with the ‘unofficial’ practice of obligating women to take their husband’s name on their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) after marriage

A woman’s choice

“It’s a woman’s choice and not of a man’s,” said Tariq Malik, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) new chairperson, while discarding the ‘unofficial’ practice of obligating women to take their husband’s name on their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) after marriage.

“Women can now register themselves with their father’s or husband’s name,” says Malik. He said it was not compulsory for women to take their husband’s name or seek permission from the husband for updating their name on the CNIC after getting married.

Previously, it was a ‘cultural practice’ compelling women to incorporate their husband’s name to their CNIC after the change in marital status, which is already done through the registration of the marriage deed (nikahnama). The authority says that the change will help women exercise their will.

Many women have welcomed the change. “This gives us a sense of empowerment and identity as women,” Hina Saleem, a mother of two says. She adds, “When I replaced my father’s name with my spouse’s on my parents’ insistence, I had a very odd feeling. I did not want to that but had to,” she says.

“There was nothing mandatory but there was a cultural practice, which the new NADRA chairperson has identified and corrected, says Fauzia Viqar, activist and development practitioner. “He has come down hard on the patriarchal culture”.

She says it is a small but significant step and will be helpful in bringing about a collective change.

“It will also benefit the women who do not understand the significance of such policy changes,” she says, adding, “It is a very positive development.”

She says there is no such provision in many countries. It will be helpful to women who do not give much time to such thoughts and absorb the oppressive culture. Legally, she said, it will also benefit women who get divorced. Changing one’s last name had been a cumbersome process, she says.

The Interior Ministry and new NADRA administration are trying to end gender bias in the registration procedures and facilitating women to get registered with the NADRA says Malik. Malik has worked as technical advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the recent past. He assisted more than 130 UNDP partner countries to improve their governmental performance using digital technology. He was re-appointed NADRA chairman in June this year after. On his reappointment, he suggested using chairperson in the title instead of chairman.

“Why use oxymoron title like ChairMAN, why not ChairPERSON? I strongly believe one day a woman or #transgender will become Chairperson #NADRA. All citizens of #Pakistan regardless of their orientation & religion/faith are equal stakeholder of #NADRA,” he tweeted after his appointment referring to gender equality as a sustainable development goal.

Since 2017, the NADRA has registered 12.3 million women. Out of these 1.5 million were registered through voter registration campaigns. The gender gap in terms of registration has thus come down from 12 million to 10.2 million.

Friday is women’s day at NADRA centers across the country and only women are entrained. There are 18 women-only centres across Pakistan. However, a recent report in media has mentioned that birth registration of girls has declined by 31.5 per cent between 2016 and 2020 in the Punjab.

The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at: vaqargillani@gmail.com       Twitter: @waqargillani

A woman’s choice