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As an Islamic country, Pakistan should theoretically respect many rights of women, but in its predominantly patriarchal society such laws have been subject to complex patterns of advances and setbacks, particularly since 1947.[1][2][3] According to Muhammad Ramzan et al., the legislative assembly of Pakistan has enacted a number of measures designed to give women more power in the areas of family, inheritance, revenue, and civil and criminal laws, while also attempting to safeguard their right to freedom of speech and expression without gender discrimination, seeing this as required by the Quran.[2]

According to Sania Muneer, sections 8 to 28 of the Constitution of Pakistan, in principle, assure equal opportunities and fundamental rights to all, without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, sex or gender (with some limitations in regards to minorities). On the other hand, continued violence against women has resulted in the creation of laws such as the Muslim Personal Law of Sharia (addressing a woman's right to inherit all forms of property), the Muslim Family Law Ordinance or MFLO (intended to protect women against unjust but prevailing practices in regards to marriage, divorce, polygamy and other personal relationships), and the Hudood Ordinance. The latter was seen as working at cross-purposes to the rights of women by victimizing women only, which the more recent Women's Protection Bill was introduced to correct.

The Sexual Harassment Bill was created to ensure women's safety in public and work spaces, while the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill[4] sought to constitutionally protect them against discriminatory social practices, such as forced marriages, intended to deprive women of their inheritance rights. The bill incorporated strong penalties for offenders. The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill[5] aimed at controlling the import, production, transportation, hoarding, sale and use of acid, and provide legal support to acid burn victims. Penalties include imprisonment anywhere from fourteen years to life and fines of up to 1 million rupees. Child Marriages Acts have been instituted by state governments, including the province of Sindh, setting the marriageable age at 18, though in Punjab it is 16.

All of these laws provide theoretical, but not necessarily practical, protection.[3]

Constitutional equal rights

Constitutionally, Pakistani Muslim women are able to vote, participate in elections, hold public offices and pursue most professions.[2]

Laws which protect the rights and safety of women

Family laws

Marriageable age and divorce

Divorce in Pakistan is mainly regulated by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act (1939, amended in 1961) and the Family Courts Act (1964). The Child Marriage Restraint Act or CMRA (1929) set the marriageable for women at 16; in the province of Sindh, as per the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, it is 18.


Main article: Inheritance Law for Women in Pakistan and its Impact

Under British rule, the Married Women’s Property Act (1874) was in force, which primarily defined issues related to pre-marriage and post-marriage assets, liability and insurance. The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act (1937) and its successor, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act (1961), provide Muslim women with limited inheritance rights; they received half of the amount assigned to sons, raised to two-thirds if there were no sons, and further complex calculations settled the remainder per sectarian principles. [8] While this right to inheritance existed on paper, customarily it was not observed in fact,[9] so the Government of Pakistan enacted strong provisions in sections 498 A and 498 C of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act (2011) to ensure women received their proper inheritance.[8]

Pakistan, as a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), is expected to progress towards eliminating property discrimination and recognizing the equality of citizens as a fundamental right.[8] [9]

Law of Evidence

See also: Status of women's testimony in Islam and Judiciary of Pakistan § Harassment of women judges

Conservative outlook

"..the Qur’anic provisions
with regard to women's posture
vis-a-vis their evidence
is clear and that two of them
are equal to one man.
This is a bitter pill
which a modern
and educated woman
will have to swallow
in an Islamic society."
~ Dr. Israr Ahmed


Feminist complaint

"..the provision has
belittled the status of
several women working as
administrators, bankers,
lawyers and judges,
for they often have to request
their male clerks and peons
to attest documents
drawn up by them."
~ Rashida Patel


Until 1987, the British Evidence Act of 1872 remained applicable in Pakistan, which otherwise did not have any laws regarding gender discrimination in the legal system. Since the 1970s when the process of Islamization under General Zia Ul Haq started in Pakistan, many laws have been altered according to Islamic Sharia. As part of the same process, the Evidence Act was replaced by Qanun-e-Shahada on 26 October, 1984, though it did not come into effect until 1987.[11] As of that year, in cases of Hadd, the evidence of women is not admissible. Further, in cases involving financial or other future obligations, written instructions and documents must be attested by either two men or one man and two women.[11] In other legal proceedings it is left to the judge's discretion whether to admit a woman's testimony as equal.[11]


In 2021 the Lahore High Court banned the use of virginity tests in cases where women claim they were raped.[12]

See also



  1. ^ Anita M Weiss, 2013, "Moving Forward with the Legal Empowerment of Women in Pakistan," Washington DC, United States Institute of Peace. Accessed 2020-12-11. default/files/SR305.pdf
  2. ^ a b c Ramzan, Muhammad; Javaid, Kashif (2019). Iqbal Tauseef, Buksh Ilahi. "Freedom of Speech: Infringement of Women Rights in Pakistan". Saussurea. 9: 28–38.
  3. ^ a b Muneer, Sania (2017). "Pro-women Laws in Pakistan: Challenges towards Implementation" (PDF). Journal of Pakistan Vision. 18 (2): 86–101. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
  4. ^ "National Assembly passes landmark women's rights bill". The Express Tribune. 15 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Women-specific bills passed: Fourteen-year jail term for acid-throwers". The Express Tribune. 12 December 2011.
  6. ^ Saleem, Sana (4 March 2010). "Logging on to empower women". DAWN.COM.
  7. ^ "WDF hails passing of Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Bill".
  8. ^ a b c Chaudhary, Azam; Holden, Livia (8 May 2013). "Daughters' inheritance, legal pluralism, and governance in Pakistan". The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. 45 (1): 104–123. doi:10.1080/07329113.2013.781447. S2CID 144097184 – via Routledge.
  9. ^ a b Ijaz Butt, Beenish; Zada Asad, Amir (2016). "Refutation, Relinquishment and Inheritance: Exploring Women'sInheritance Rights in Pakistan" (PDF). Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences (PJSS). 36 (2): 1001–1009.
  10. ^ a b Rao, Muhammad Atif Aslam (2020-05-24). "Islamization of Law of Evidence in Pakistan with Specific Reference to Testimony of a Woman". SSRN 3609096.
  11. ^ a b c Rao, Dr Muhammad Atif Aslam (2020-05-24). "Islamization of Law of Evidence in Pakistan with Specific Reference to Testimony of a Woman". Rahat-ul-Quloob. Rochester, NY. Vol.4, Issue.1(Jan-Jun: 2020): 1 to 12. SSRN 3609096 – via SSRN. |volume= has extra text (help)
  12. ^ 🖉"Pakistan court bans virginity tests for rape survivors".