Khula verdict

Federal Shariat Court uphelds women’s right to divorce, even without consent of husband.

The Federal Shariat Court has effectively upheld women’s right to divorce, even without the consent of her husband, in a decision that ensures women have a legal right to get out of difficult marriages, including those involving domestic abuse. In a recent ruling, the court said khula is an absolute right and that if a woman approaches a court and can fulfil the necessary financial conditions and makes the required declaration, the court cannot deny her request for termination of the marriage. The conditions simply amount to the return of any mehar given at the time of marriage, and a statement in court by the applicant that she can no longer live with her husband “within the limits set by the Almighty Allah”.

While the court had previously ruled on these issues last year, the new judgment provides further clarity on issues such as timelines for a decision, essentially allowing for khula to be granted as soon as the court is informed that the mehar has been paid back. Women can also not be asked to pay the husband more than was originally agreed and paid at the time of marriage. Another prominent point in the ruling is that women have a legal right to a reduction of the mehar amount they owe, based on several conditions. The most prominent of these is if the woman can reliably claim she was mistreated by her spouse. If the court is provided with substantial evidence to assign fault to the husband, it has the right to waive a portion of mehar, or even the entire amount that must be paid.

Khula also does away with several requirements for a more common divorce, as the applicant is no longer required to level any allegation of maltreatment or mistreatment and misbehaviour, which can often be difficult to prove. Although women who can prove abuse will usually receive significantly more benefits from a divorce, the lengthy legal process and risk to physical and mental health is often not worth it, especially for women who are already financially independent.

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