Rights of Women

Statutes For Protection Of Women Rights

  • The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961.
  • West Pakistan Family Courts Act 1964.
  • The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939.
  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act (XIX) of 1929.
  • The Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976.
  • The Guardians and Wards Act 1890.
  • The Conciliation Courts Ordinance 1961.
  • Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts Ordinance 2002.
  • Prevention & Control of Human trafficking Ordinance 2002.
  • Protection of Breast feeding and visitation Ordinance 2002.
  • Local Government Ordinance 2000.
  • Police Order 2002.
  • Crimes in the name of Honour amendment Bill 2004.
  • The Protection Of Women (Criminal Laws Amendments) Act, 2006.

This  bill before  becoming an Act was circulated among NGOs and civil society and was debated in public by holding workshops and conferences to get the concurrence of the stake holders.  The bill was presented in the Parliament and became an Act known as “The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendments) Act, 2006.  This law actually amended the Zina Ordinance and the Qazaf Ordinance 1979

The amendments of the Hudood Ordinances has broken the “myth” that the Hudood Ordinances are God made laws and should not be altered.The Hudood Laws which were imposed on the people of Pakistan through an Ordinance (undemocratically) were amended by a democratic process. The amendments redressed all those sections dealing with, abduction, kidnapping etc. (365-B, 397-A, 371-A, 371-B, 375 rape, 376 punishment of rape 492-A, 496-a, 496-b Fornication, 496-C, 203-A, 203-B & C etc.) to Pakistan Penal Code.

The most important step was that Rape was included in Pakistan Penal Code.  This would give great relief to those women who complained of Rape but were registered under Zina Ordinance.

Further the process of Lian (the process prescribed in Holy Quran where the husband accuses the wife of adultery but there are no witness available except himself) has been included as a ground for divorce (in Muslim Marriages Act 1939).

The overriding section (Section 3) has been deleted.
  • In section 2 the term “Confession” has been defined and added.
  • In Section 4 the word “Validly” has been omitted.

The role of Police in the cases of Zina, Zina bil Jar & Qazf has been excluded and complaints can only be filed before a Competent Court.

  • In the law of Qazf the overriding section has been deleted. 

Rights of Women in Islam

At the time of ignorance (Jahiliyya) prior to the advent of Islam women were in subjugation either to their husbands or kinsmen. They were considered a chattel to be possessed, bought, sold or inherited. They were excluded from any active role in the socio-economic and political affairs of society, in fact their personal consent concerning anything related to their own well-being was considered unimportant, to such a degree that they were never even treated as a party to a marriage contract.

The birth of daughter in a family was not an occasion for rejoicing, but was regarded with humiliation and disgrace. Family infanticide was common; in fact it was viewed as a generous act. This was because of the nature of society. There were often inter tribal feuds which demanded male members to defend their tribes, hence men were in greater demand than women. In addition, in tribal conflict, the enemy always aimed at capturing women and taking them as prisoners to collect heavy ransom, failing to do so, the women would be kept as slaves. In both cases women were considered a liability as if the ransom was paid, the tribe would lose money, if not, then their honor was at stake. Wars and invasions never ceased and taking revenge was the greatest feat. All of these things depended on the male and the women could not partake in these activities. In war time women were desired loot for the service of the enemy.  

With the arrival of Islam came the verse from the Quran condemning those who practiced female infanticide.

      “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed.  Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.”     (An-Nahl 16:58-59)

And as part of a description of various events on the Day of Judgment, the Quran mentions:

     “And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned.  For what sin she was killed?     (At-Tawir 81:8-9) 

Outside Arabia conditions for women were no better.  In India, Egypt, and all European countries in the Dark ages, women were treated worse than slaves. 

With the advent of Islam, the position of women was radically redefined. Firstly, it prohibited the practice of female infanticide and restored the birthrights of women. Islam elevated the status of women to be as worthy of human dignity as men.

Allah says in the Quran:

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away party of the Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse.  And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.”     (An-Nisa 4:19)

The most basic right of a woman in Islam is the knowledge and recognition that she never has to ask or demand or fight for her rights which are guaranteed to her by Allah, Himself



This involves the right to manage for a woman to own money and property independently. She is at liberty to buy, sell, mortgage, lease, borrow or lend and sign contracts and legal documents. Also, she can donate her money, act as a trustee and set up a business or company. This right cannot be altered whether a woman is married or single. When she is married she enjoys a free hand over the dower while she is married or divorced. This independent economic position is based on Quranic principles, especially the teaching of Zakat, which encourages women to own, invest, save and distribute their earnings and savings according to their discretion. It acknowledges and enforces the right of women to participate in various economic activities.


Islam regards marriage as a union between two consenting adults which aims to perpetuate human life and achieve spiritual and emotional harmony. Islam attaches great importance to the well being of a marriage.

Islam is against the idea of women being forced to marry against their wishes. On the contrary it encourages women to choose their spouses. According to the prophet, ‘A widow or divorcee is not to be married unless her consent is sought.’


As a woman has the right to have a say on the issues of her marriage, she equally has a right to initiate divorce if the partnership proves to be unsuccessful. If the marriage contract states that she has the right of divorce she can attain one instantaneously otherwise she would have to resort to the court to dissolve the marital relationship. Overall, Quranic legislation requires some time for reflection and insists on the kind treatment of the woman. If the divorce takes place the husband has to pay back the deferred dowry and a reasonable amount of money for maintenance. He has to support her throughout the idda period (three months and ten days) to determine if she is pregnant. If so he is legally obliged to support her until she delivers and nurses the baby to a certain age.


Both Quran and Sunnah advocate the rights of women and men to attain knowledge equally. The Quran commands all Muslims to exert effort in the pursuit of knowledge irrespective of their sex. It constantly encourages Muslims to read, think, contemplate and learn from the signs of Allah in nature. ‘Are the wise and ignorant equal? Truly none will heed but men of understanding” “Allah will raise to high rank those that have faith and knowledge among you. He is cognizant of all your actions.” Say: Lord, increase me in knowledge. The prophet also said ‘If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell fire’


A woman in Islam has always been entitled by law to keep her family name and not take her husbands name. Therefore, she is known by her family name as an indication of her individuality and her own identity. In Islam there is no process of changing the names of women be they married, divorced or widowed.


The Quran has allotted a share for the woman in the inheritance of her parents and kinsmen. Her share is guaranteed by law and it is completely hers. No one can have a claim on it. The Quran says ‘Men shall have a share in what their parents and kinsmen leave; whether it be little or much, it is legally theirs’.  (An-Nisa 4:7)


Islam encourages women to be active politically and to be involved in decision-making. In fact Islam is the only religion which acknowledges a political role of women. In early Islam women were given every opportunity to express themselves, to argue, and to speak their mind in public. They led delegations, mediated and granted refuge and protection. Their judgments on political matters were highly valued and respected and they exercised great influence in shaping their own societies. Umme Salama and Aisha for instance played a crucial role in compiling the traditions of the Prophet, which are considered one of the main sources of Islamic Jurisprudence.   


 “If someone’s wife asks his permission to go the mosque, he should not deny it to her”    Women have the right to go to the mosque. They should be dressed according to the Muslim women’s dress requirements for respect.  


Islam does not forbid women to work and have a job outside the home as long as the external work does not interfere with her home obligations and lower her dignity. On the contrary Islam granted women the right to hold a job and involve her actively in trade and commerce. During the early Islamic period, women often helped men in their outdoor work and were allowed to move about freely with men. The Prophet himself encouraged his wives and daughters to engage in gainful work. He said ‘the most blessed earning is that which a person gains from his own labor. Hazrat Khatijah’s astuteness and business acumen made hers the most widespread among the Quraish.

Rights Of Women In Constitution Of Pakistan

Articles 8 to Article 28 of the 1973 Constitution describe the Fundamental Rights which are to be available to all citizens, women as well as men wherever they may be, as well as all people temporarily or permanently in Pakistan. However, the freedoms guaranteed can be curtailed or taken away by the government on the grounds of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, maintenance of public order, public morality. BUT these restrictions can be challenged in the superior courts - see What to do if your Rights have been Violated below. The executive is bound to implement these rights while the judiciary is bound to take notice of any violations and provide redress on individual complaints or take notice of its own (called ‘suo moto’ notice) of any gross violations of a collective right. For example, the Supreme Court has recently taken suo moto notice of the killings in Karachi.

The basis of fundamental rights is laid out in Article 4, which states that it is the inalienable right (i.e., can never be taken away) of individuals (citizens wherever they may be as well as individuals currently in Pakistan) to enjoy the protection of law and be treated in accordance with law. It also guarantees the protection of life, liberty, body, reputation & property of an individual.

Fundamental Rights in the Constitution

In this chart, rather than going in numerical order as they appear in the Constitution, we have grouped Fundamental Rights according to the issues they deal with.
Topic : Rights
Rights are Supreme: Article 8
Any law or custom or usage having force of law inconsistent with Fundamental Rights shall be void

Right to Life &
Articles 9, 10, 12 & 13

  • No person can be deprived of life or liberty, save in    accordance with law
  • On arrest or detention in custody, person is to be    told grounds for such action & has the right to    consult and be defended by l egal practitioner of    his/her choice.
  • Arrested person is to be produced before the    Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.
  • Any detention beyond this period without the    Magistrate’s authority is illegal.(Exceptions: people    taken into preventive detention. However, there is    also a specified procedure for such     detention.)
  • A person cannot be punished for an act which was    legally not a crime at the time of its occurrence
  • No punishment other than that prescribed in law at    the time of occurrence 
  • For one crime/offence the accused cannot be    punished twice
  • The accused cannot be forced to give witness    against herself/himself

Prohibition of
Slavery &
Forced Labour:
Article 11

  • Slavery, all forms of forced labour and trafficking of    human beings are prohibited
  • No child under 14 can work in a factory or a mine or    any other hazardous employment.
    (Exceptions: prisoners and any duty for public service    required by law.
    but compulsory service cannot be cruel or    incompatible with human dignity)
Dignity of Man
and Privacy of
Home:Article 14
  • Guarantees privacy of home and forbids torture for    the purpose of extraction of evidence
  • Police or any other state agency can enter a home    only after obtaining lawful authority (in writing,    naming person & purpose of entry - e.g., arrest or    recovery of stolen goods)
Basic Freedoms:
Articles 15, 16,
17, 18 & 19
  • Every citizen is free to: move, live and settle in any    part of the country, and also has the right to a    passport and to travel abroad
  • Every citizen has the right to assemble peacefully      (Exceptions: these can be restricted by law in the    public interest)
  • Every citizen has the right to: join an    association/union; freedom of speech and expression;    freedom of the Press is guaranteed
    (Exceptions: can be restricted by law on grounds of    sovereignty& integrity of Pakistan, public order or    morality; government servant cannot be member of a    political party)
  • Every citizen, subject to qualifications can enter a    trade, business or profession of his/her choice          (Exceptions: regulations of trade & commerce can be    made by the government)
Freedom &
Articles 20, 21 & 22

Every citizen has the right to believe, practice and propagate their religion. 
Every religious denomination/sect has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions 
No person can be compelled to pay any special tax to be spent on the propagation or maintenance of a particular religion or religious institution other than his/her own 
No person attending any educational institution can be required to attend religious ceremonies, worship or receive education of a religion other than his/her own. 
No discrimination against any community in grant of tax exemption or concessions for religious institutions 
No discrimination in admission to educational institutions receiving public funds on grounds of race, religion, caste or place of birth
(Exceptions: quota system is permissible for advancement of any socially or educationally backward class of citizens)

Property Rights:
Articles 23 & 24
  • Every citizen is allowed to own, sell his/her property    in any part of the country
  • No person can be deprived of her/his property    compulsorily. If property, land is needed in public    interest, then the government has to give reasonable    compensation to the owner.
Guarantees of
Equality & Non-
Articles 25, 26 &
  • All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to    equal protection of law
  • There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex    alone
    (Exceptions: the state can make special provisions for the protection of women and children)
  • No discrimination on any basis in access to public    places, except those specifically reserved for religious    purposes (Exceptions: the state can make special    provisions for women and children)
  • no person otherwise qualified can be discriminated    against in the matter of employment on the basis of    race, religion, caste, sex,. residence or place of birth    (Exceptions: specific services can be reserved for    members of either sex if such posts/services require    duties which cannot be adequately performed by the    members of other sex, e.g. Lady Health Visitor)

Article 32

Article 34

Article 35

Article 37(e) 

Article 38(a)

Article 38(d)

In addition to the Fundamental Rights described in the table above, the Constitution also lists several ‘Principles of Policy’. The government is to make policies accordingly, which the government, all public institutions and all government servants are expected to uphold. A number of the Principles of Policy specifically relate to women:

  • Special representation shall be given to women in local government institutions (i.e., local bodies).
  • Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life.
  • The State shall protect marriage, the family, the mother and the child. make sure women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their sex, and that working women get maternity benefits.
  • Secure well-being of the people, irrespective of sex.
  • Provide basic necessities of life, irrespective of sex.



Govermental Reform Initiatives

In accordance with the International conventions and declarations the government has been taking various initiatives and reform measures for improving the status of women at all levels.

Commissions On Women

Since the creation of Pakistan, there have been five major commissions and committees regarding women issues;

  • Commission On Marriage And Family Laws (1955-61)
  • Pakistani Women Rights Committee (1975-76)
  • Commission On The Status Of Women (1980-88)
  • Commission Of Inquiry For Women (1994-97)
  • Pakistan National Commission On The Status Of Women (2000)

The only reform law existing in Pakistan, today, concerning women’s personal rights is the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961.

Institutional Measures

In addition to these commissions, the Government has also been taking initiatives like the establishment of the Ministry of Women Development MOWD) at the Federal level and the Women Development Departments at the four provinces. These permanent institutional arrangements are proactive measures, albeit with varying temporal focus and by and large having a welfare approach. However as long as the Institutional mechanisms are available, we can always hope for an improvement in the policies, systems and mechanisms towards women development. 

In addition the initiatives include:

  • National Plan of Action, and the attached implementation mechanisms.
  • The National policy for the Empowerment & Advancement of Women.
  • Ten years perspective plan

These policies and plans do reflect the basic themes of women development and partial empowerment, but stop short at the crucial issues of discriminatory laws and violence within the family.  None the less, these policies and plans have responded to Pakistan’s international commitments and many demands emanating from within Pakistan to follow an agenda of empowerment and emancipation.

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