Pakistan: Women's Commission Recommends Change in Clause 10 of Citizenship Act

Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid
The Commission on the Status of Women had reviewed the Citizenship Act, and recommended that the language should be changed from being exclusively male.
The word ‘spouses’ should replace ‘fathers’ in the act and the Clause 10 of the Act, which allows citizenship to the foreign wives of Pakistani men, but does not give the same privilege to the spouses of Pakistani women, should be changed.
Justice (Retd) Majida Rizvi, Chairperson Commission on the Status of Women, stated this during an awareness raising session held at the office of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA). The meeting was attended by a number of female lawyers and law students from around Karachi.

Justice Rizvi told the meeting that she started practicing more then 40 years ago, despite fierce opposition from her family to her entering the legal profession. She initially practiced in Lahore, and dealt with many cases revolving around the Family Ordinances of 1961. She found that it was very difficult to be a woman in her profession. She was constantly watched and criticized, and there was a great deal of unfounded gossip about her. She told the meeting that she had to be very careful to maintain her reputation. One of the ways in which she maintained a professional image was by being very strict about her appearance.

She informed the meeting that although she had to face a lot of criticism from other lawyers in the profession, she always found the judiciary to be very helpful. They would help her by advising her on how to cross-examine. She also enjoyed the friendship of her seniors, and had a great deal of respect for them. Her seniors helped her in her career.

Justice (Retd) Majida Rizvi informed the participants that she wrote a number of articles between 1965-1977 on women issues. To attract readers, she would write the articles in story form and incorporate issues, laws, and legal advice in them. She wrote on a variety of topics ranging from the Family Ordinances to registration of birth and death and identity cards. She found that being a woman made her progress in the legal profession difficult, and that many male colleagues were preferred to more deserving female lawyers. Eventually, she became a High court judge in 1994.

In 2002, Justice (Retd) Majida Rizvi was appointed Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women. The functions of this commission are to review government policies and legislation, and make suggestions on how they can be made more favourable to women. The Commission interacts with NGO’s and similar commissions to research women issues, and is developing a mechanism to effectively monitor women’s problems and report to the government.

Justice Rizvi informed the participants that the commission has found that the employment legislation of 1989, which creates a 5% quota for women in public sector organizations, is not being fully observed by the federal government. The quota is not being filled, and when women are employed, they are not allowed to rise to decision-making positions. The commission is also reviewing the labour laws, and attempting to expand them to include female domestic workers. It is also critical of the difference in mandatory retirement ages for males and females, and is attempting to change this.

Justice Majida Rizvi told the gathering that the Hudood Ordinances are also under review, particularly the laws regarding the capacity of women to give legal evidence. She said that there is ignorance in our country over the Islamic position on this, and that when Hadith on the authority of women can be accepted, women should also be allowed to give legal evidence.

Justice Majida Rizvi urged the young lawyers present to work with commitment towards the cause of women. She said that competitiveness is healthy, but there should also be a unity in working to elevate the position of women in this country.

Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA)
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