ISLAMABAD - Pakistani women are increasingly turning to divorce to escape abusive and loveless marriages, a phenomenon blamed by some on the rising empowerment and freedoms.
"If you are earning, the only thing you need from the guy is love and affection, 26-year-old divorcee Rabia, a reporter, told Reuters.
If the guy is not even providing that, then you leave him.
Estimates show that more Pakistani women are turning to divorce to escape their abusive and loveless marriages.
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In Islamabad, 557 couples divorced in 2011, up from 208 in 2002, the Islamabad Arbitration Council said.
The Pakistani government does not track a national divorce rate.
"He used to slap me, push me, pull my hair, said Fatima, a 31-year-old mother of two from the eastern city of Lahore, who separated from her husband after a seven-year marriage.
After I had injured my backbone very badly, he slapped me while I was pregnant," said Fatima, not her real name.
She got her divorce but her ex-husband refused to pay child support.
Unable to get a decent job, she remarried him so he would pay their children's school fees.
Now she sleeps behind a locked door.
"He will not give maintenance if I am not living in the house," she said.
"I don't want to leave (my children) alone here. They are at a very tender age. If I could have supported them, I would have left long ago."
In Islam, marriage is a sacred bond that brings together a man and a woman by virtue of the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
Each partner in this sacred relationship must treat the other properly and with respect.
Divorce is not at all viewed favorably in Islam and is discouraged unless warranted by valid reasons.
Divorce is one of the rights that Islam grants to husbands. In most cases, a husband can claim that right.
However, there are also some cases in which a wife can terminate marriage; for example, by means of khul` (wife's right to obtain divorce under certain conditions).
But some blame the phenomenon on the empowerment and financial independence of Pakistani women.
"Women are also making money now and they think if they have empowerment, they do not need to sacrifice as much," said Musfira Jamal, a senior member of the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami.
"God does not like divorce ... (but) God has not given any right to any man to beat his wife or torture his family."
While women divorcing their husbands is widespread in the West, it is a relatively new phenomenon in this south Asian Muslim country.
Muslim women in the subcontinent didn't get the legal right to ask for a divorce until the mid-1930s.
Even then, a bride had to opt in by checking a box on their marriage certificate.
A law passed in 1961 finally let women seek divorce through civil courts if they could show their spouses were at fault, but cases can take years.
While a divorce case in family courts must be resolved within six months, civil divorce cases can drag on for years, making it even harder for tens of thousands of women to get a divorce.
In the commercial hub Karachi, lawyer Zeeshan Sharif said he receives several divorce enquiries a week but virtually none a decade ago.
Women seeking a divorce usually come from the upper and middle classes, he said.
Lawyers' fees are at least $300, a year's wage for many of Pakistan's 180 million citizens.
For poor housewives, hiring a lawyer is impossible.
Most Pakistanis think the higher divorce rate is linked to women's growing financial independence, a 2010 poll by The Gilani Foundation/Gallup Pakistan found.
The number of women with jobs grew from 5.69 million to 12.11 million over the past decade, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said.
"The women have been given so-called freedom and liberty, which causes danger to themselves," Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.
He insisted that western culture, not abuse, is why women seek divorces.
But lawyer Aliya Malik insisted that domestic violence was one of the most common reasons for divorce.Around 90 percent of Pakistani women experienced domestic violence at least once, a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net