What is the divorce rate in Pakistan

Dangerous divorces in Pakistan

Masooma Sara Khan's marriage began when her parents sold her to a man when she was 11 years old for the equivalent of $ 250. "It was neither an arranged marriage nor a love marriage - I was just sold. Like a toy," says the 22-year-old who works in a beauty salon in Peshawar. "Every woman dreams of her wedding - but mine came very casually. The groom didn't love me and I just wanted my parents to be satisfied." In 2012, after eleven years of marriage, she filed for divorce. The reason: sexual harassment by the husband's older brother: "How could I still live in the same house with him? I fear for my honor," says the young woman.

Her divorce proceedings are still ongoing and life is getting more and more difficult for Masooma Khan: "When I left my husband, my parents did not want to take me into their house. I tried to rent an apartment myself, but nobody wants someone who lives alone Woman rent an apartment. " Now she lives with her two children with a friend and her family.

divorces in Pakistan have long been a taboo

In conservative Pashtun society it is not acceptable for women to file for divorce. For men, however, this is less of a problem.

In some regions of Pakistan, young girls are being married off to settle blood feuds

The Pashtun singer Ghazala Javed was shot dead by her husband in 2012. She wanted a divorce after finding out that her spouse was already married to another woman. Ghazala Javed's grieving mother can only hope that the judiciary will ensure a just punishment.

Masooma Khan also demands justice. She took her case to the Peshawar Supreme Court. Her attorney Ahmed Salim Khan points out that the number of divorces has risen sharply over the past decade. In 2012 there were more than 1000 divorce proceedings in the courts in Peshawar - in 1998 there were only 80. That is because women now know their rights better, says lawyer Ahmed Khan: "Through the media they know that every woman who, for example Being a victim of violence in marriage, having the right to get a divorce. Therefore, they turn to the courts. "

Conservatism and the Power of Men

Forty percent of the men and women who go to the local Islamic institution Jaamia Darwaish in Peshawar for advice would like to discuss a divorce. Mufti Abdul Qadeer, one of the Islamic scholars at Jaamia Darwaish, advises couples against separation as a matter of principle: "Divorce destroys society, tribe and family. It is frowned upon in Islam and should only be the very last resort," he says.

Divorce is generally allowed in Islam, but in practice the well-being of a woman is less important than that of a man in parts of Pakistani society: According to a study by the World Economic Forum in 2012, Pakistan is one of the countries with the deepest gap between the sexes and a particularly low degree of equality.

Free legal assistance from women's organizations

Demonstration for women's rights in Lahore

According to the Aurat Foundation, Pakistan's largest women's organization, more than 8,000 women were murdered in Pakistan last year because they complained about domestic violence or applied for divorce. "It is a big mistake that our society persuades women to accept their marriage until the end of their lives - no matter what happens," says Shabina Ayaz of the Aurat Foundation. She finds the behavior of many parents particularly bad when they do not take their married daughters back home and support them - even if they have been victims of domestic violence.

In larger cities like Karachi and Lahore, the situation of women is better than in the more conservative Peshawar and in the border area with Afghanistan. Victims of violence can turn to the police more easily in these more modern cities, and they also have better contact with lawyers and the courts.

Organizations like Aurat are working closely with the police in the more conservative regions of Pakistan and are offering courses in which police officers learn how to better deal with victims of domestic violence. At the same time, the women's rights activists also want to sensitize lawyers in Pakistan to issues such as gender discrimination and violence in marriage. "In addition, the Aurat Foundation offers women free legal assistance for divorce," says Shabina Ayaz.

But divorce remains a dangerous struggle for women in Pakistan. Masooma Khan is determined to go that route. The fact that she will probably not receive any child support payments after separating from her husband is not her main concern. She lives in constant fear: "At home I am afraid that someone might come to kill me. And outside I am afraid of an acid attack."