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Pakistani Region Gives Women Legal Right To Property

A woman works at a temporary shelter for freed peasants run by independent rights activists on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Pakistan. (file photo)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A Pakistani regional assembly has passed a law making it illegal for parents not to extend property rights to female family members, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

The bill was presented in the assembly in the northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by deputy Noor Sahar and was unanimously passed on January 5.

Under Islamic Shari'a law a daughter should receive half as much property from her parents as her brother would receive (two sisters' shares put together would equal that given to a brother). This is the standard the province's government expects its citizens to follow.

Arshad Abdullah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's law minister, told Radio Mashaal that those refusing to give property rights to women family members would be punished with a five-year jail term and a 50,000 rupee (around $550) fine.

"This is a great effort and a big change in the law [of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa]," Abdullah said. "Now it is up to the women to be aware of and to fight for their rights."

Sahar, the author of the bill, distributed candy in the assembly following passage of the bill. She told Radio Mashaal that under the new law a time limit will be set for the court to settle women's property rights cases.

"The court will decide any case [regarding women's property rights] within six months. And within one month of the court ruling police will accompany that particular woman to [her family] to [ensure she] attains her right [to property]," Sahar said. "Anyone not obeying the court's orders will be given a five-year jail term and 50,000 rupee fine."

Other members of the provincial assembly, particularly the women lawmakers, welcomed the passage of the bill and said they hoped it would ensure women's rights in family property and wealth under Islam.