The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ruled in favour of an eloped couple, stating that the union of husband and wife in an irregular marriage cannot be regarded as un-Islamic or against Shariah. The family of the woman filed an application for the registration of a case under charges of abduction and Zina. They insisted that she had divorced her husband and was abducted by the suspect and later married him without observing the period of Iddat, hence the marriage be declared null and void.

The counsel for the respondents/suspects deny the charges saying no-one had abducted the woman, who being sui juris contracted the second marriage after elapsing the period of Iddat as her first husband divorced her on Feb 6, 2011, as is evident from the Talaq-nama (divorce paper). Given the proof, the LHC ruled in favor of the respondents.

Such cases are all too common in Pakistan, where despite improvements in literacy rates amongst women, patriarchy ultimately trumps all. Pakistan currently has discriminatory legislation and a dysfunctional legal system, which is by and large unwilling to enforce progressive legislation for women. This ruling may just be one of many to follow in this society where women have come a long way from two decades ago when they were thrown in jail for having “illicit relationships.”

It is heartening to witness such cases where women have the privilege to choose who they wish to spend their lives with and to do so without legal discrimination. Social stigma and persecution is another matter entirely. Unfortunately, a woman is still regarded, as the property of her father, brother or husband and any action taken by the woman to enforce her own will, becomes a matter of life or death. No matter what the past of any woman and man in question, the sanctity of their marriage needs to be respected by family and society.