Standard Family Laws Must for All Communities: Asma

New Delhi
Standard Family Laws Must for All Communities: Asma
There should be a "minimum standard" of family laws for all communities irrespective of their religious beliefs, noted human rights activist from Pakistan Asma Jahangir said today.

"Of course, there are different religious beliefs, but I feel there should be a minimum standard of family laws for all communities," she said during an interaction session after delivering the 16th Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture here.

She was asked if women in all countries in the sub-continent face same problems but were divided by different laws for different communities.

The power of law is an "important tool" for women in the sub-continent, the first woman president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association said while delivering the lecture and recalled how women activists in Pakistan took the lead in fighting against discriminatory clauses in laws like the Hudood Ordinance.

"After years of struggle, we have succeeded in making some such laws toothless but we are still fighting as there are some remnants of the Islamisation of laws that was seen during (military ruler) Zia (ul-Haq)."

She noted that women in both Pakistan and India face the problem of "entrenched anti-gender mindset" and dwelt on how women activists in Pakistan face situations where incidents like honour killing are supported in the name of "culture and social norms".

Jahangir said the women in Pakistan, whatever professions they are in, played an important role in building public opinion against "increasing Talibanisation".

"The quota for women in Parliament made a lot of difference," she said, adding, "We hope you in India will also follow suit".

While noting that is some aspects, laws in Pakistan have become more liberal, she said family laws are still not based on equality but on the status of men as "provider".

Turning to Hindu laws in Pakistan, Jahangir said the minority community in that country, "as Muslims in India", had been "zealously guarding" their legislations, which is understandable, but of late there is realisation about need for reforms especially in relation to women's rights.

She said the mindset which sees "peace activists as enemies, women's rights activists as lewd or fast" should be changed. "We also have our follies. We don't speak out if a Taliban suspect is picked up and tortured. We have to speak for even those we don't agree with," she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Supreme Court judge Altamas Kabir said unless the mindset is changed, no law can be enough. "The Act on widow remarriage is there for long, but how many people will agree if their son wants to marry a widow. Same problem is there with the Dowry Prohibition Act," he said.
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