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May 7, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Activists call for ensuring women’s right to inheritance

* WORD executive director says financially weak women more vulnerable to violence

ISLAMABAD: Rights activists have called for ensuring women’s right to property to make them economically stable and reduce their dependence on male heads of families.

Talking to APP, Women Organisation of Rights and Development (WORD) Executive Director Aqsa Khan said that women deprived of their due right to land had to depend on male members “which not only weakens their financial position but also results in increasing violence against women in society”.

She said a recent research study conducted in India had shown that weaker financial position of women caused sharp increase in the incidents of violence against women.

“Ownership of land is always considered a symbol of power and high status in society and due to male dominance in our country, women’s right to land or share in inheritance is openly denied, which has been clearly guaranteed in our religion,” Aqsa said.

More than 65 percent of women were working in the agriculture sector in the country, of which less than only one percent owned land, she lamented.

Aqsa said that equitable distribution of inheritance shares among all family members irrespective of their gender, by following the religious teachings, would not only give confidence to women and ensure their economic empowerment but also help minimise the incidents of violence against women. Lauding the role of women for passage of the Anti-Women Practices Bill and other pro-women legislations, Aqsa said the implementation of these laws was must for ensuring women’s emancipation in the country.

Anti-Women Practices Bill covers all such traditional practices that hinder women’s development process by snatching their rights and compelling them to marry the holy Quran, wanni, sawara and badl-e-sulah, besides depriving them of their right to inheritance. 

Aqsa said that depriving women of their right to inheritance was a criminal offence now, and there was dire need to implement the law by raising awareness among women at the district, provincial and the national levels, and simplifying the land revenue process. “Besides devising an effective mechanism for implementing the law, police officials should also be sensitised to play their crucial role because getting share in inheritance was a delayed and tedious process. This law will definitely help women to get their share at its earliest, if implemented in letter and spirit,” she said.

Prominent women’s rights activist, Fauzia Saeed, also stressed the need to raise awareness among women as well as men to give women their due right to inheritance.

She said computerisation of land record would help simplify the procedural side of transferring land of inheritance in the name of women, which was a very complicated process.

Fauzia also appreciated the role of Punjab government for announcing a pro-women package, which stated that the heir of the family should get the share of their inheritance within three months of the death of the head of the family. In case of non-compliance of this regulation, the property would be distributed among all family members by taking data of family members’ registration from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Fauzia said other provinces should also follow the trend and announce similar packages for ensuring women’s right to inheritance. National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Media Manager Tahira Noor said the commission had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for declaring jirga holding as an illegal act.

She said the commission had completed its term on March 25 and an autonomous commission would be formed, as the prime minister had announced its autonomy on the International Women’s Day on March 8 and the president had signed the act.

Tahira said the National Implementation Watch Committee had been formed through the platform of the NCSW, which proved helpful in implementing the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act.

“It is hoped that new commission would be formed soon and solid steps taken to ensure implementation of all pro-women legislations,” she said. app

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