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Activist Tasneem Ahmar
"A very bold step"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 16:06 GMT
Pakistani women hail landmark ruling
Pakistani village women
Forced marriages are quite common in rural Pakistan
Women's groups in Pakistan have welcomed a recent court judgement which rules that a woman cannot be forced to live with her husband or parents against her will.

The ruling by a judge in the Lahore High Court was made after a woman complained that she was forced to live with a cousin whom she did not want to marry.


There is no such thing as forced marriage in Islam

Tasneem Ahmar
Shahnaz Akhter told the court that she feared for her life if she was sent back to her parents or to her husband and the judge directed that she be sent to a shelter.

"As a woman activist, I welcome the ruling as a very bold step," Tasneem Ahmar, who runs a refuge for women in Lahore, told the BBC.

She said the situation faced by Ms Akhter was quite common in Pakistan, especially in a feudal set-up or in rural areas where women had little or no education.

Opposition

The issue of forced marriages is a sensitive one and Ms Ahmar says the judge's ruling in the Shaznaz Akhter case was likely to be opposed by Islamic groups.

Pakistani women
"Women need to be made aware of the ruling"
"But there is no such thing as forced marriage in Islam," she argues.

However, the landmark ruling has received little media coverage in Pakistan.

Women's activists point out that women needed to be made aware of the judgement so that they realised they could approach the courts if faced with a similar situation.

Tasneem Ahmar also pointed out that more shelters needed to be created for women to offer them a safe refuge if they decided to leave their husbands or parents.

Human rights activists in Pakistan say that around 700 women were killed in 1999 in what they describe as "honour killings".

The overwhelming majority of these women were accused by their family of eloping or marrying partners who were not considered suitable.

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | South Asia
Boost for Pakistan's women
22 Sep 99 | South Asia
Pakistan honour killings condemned
27 Aug 99 | South Asia
Bride burning 'kills hundreds'
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