PAKISTAN: Female Quake Survivors Losing Property
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: October 6, 2015
Social & Cultural Rights
managing their own property or that
varies widely across religions and cultures.
customs s hould not block equal rights in marriage and divorce
should be abrogated or amended to conform to international
on … property, nationality, and civil status.
(vi)”Economic and social rights of women should be affirmed since lack of
rights excludes women from decision making in family and society.”
Many women who vacated their homes after the earthquake now
ABBOTTABAD, 3 Jan 2006 (IRIN) – A thin, grey mule laden with
bags and sacks fidgets restlessly as he tries to flick a fly off his back.
Beside the animal, an equally thin boy stands, nervously adjusting the
reins and loading the last few items into the bags. Muhammad Kareem, 14, is
ready to accompany his aunt, Zumera Bibi, back to her village in the Allai
Valley area, badly damaged by October’s devastating regional quake, to try and
regain control of the family property, which she fears has been lost.
came down from my village, which is located some 40 km from here, because the
conditions there were very miserable. It was freezing, our house had fallen and
I was worried about being caught there without food. But I made a terrible
mistake. I should never have left our house unattended,” Zumera said.
The family was told their house, left vacant after Zumera and her
daughters moved down from the mountain village after the quake, had been seized
by nephews of Zumera’s late husband, Muhammad Ilyas.
She has no papers
to prove that the house in which she lived for nearly 20 years since her
marriage to Ilyas belongs to her, or to her four daughters, all born in the
same, tiny room at the back of the house that served as the couple’s bedroom.
Zumera has no sons, and as tradition dictates she and her daughters have
no right to the property, which would revert back to the brothers of her husband
on his death. Even though, under the law, her daughters should get at least a
share in the inheritance, this is frequently denied to women.
“It is not
just. I have repaired that house myself and raised an additional room brick by
brick, with my own hands. They have no right to steal it from me and my girls.
Where will I go now? How will I fend for my daughters and arrange their
marriages?” asks Zumera, anger and anxiety lining her face as she speaks.
Zumera’s story is no different to that of hundreds of other women
widowed by the quake. Many of those with no adult, male children face potential
seizure of property – usually by male relatives.
In some cases, the
claims of the women to the property have been challenged, and according to
reports received by NGOs active in quake-hit areas of North West Frontier
Province (NWFP), women without male family members have been forced to vacate
homes or else hand them over to male relatives in the hope that, in return, they
will help care for them and their children.
The Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan (HRCP) has already called for urgent government action to ensure
women and child victims are not deprived of their inheritance or the
compensation being given to owners of homes that fell as a result of the quake.
“We are concerned about the situation, and there is a need to protect
women’s right to property. They and the children cannot safeguard it
themselves,” said Hina Jilani of HRCP, a leading rights activist and lawyer.
The issue of property rights impacts on many quake-affected households,
not just those headed by women. Tens of thousands of people have resisted
pressure from the Pakistani government and from international relief agencies to
move down from high altitude areas, stating their houses and land would be
seized by others if they abandoned them, even for a few months.
only way we can keep our property is to live on it and farm the land. This is
the proof that it is ours, and has been handed down from father to son to
grandson, sometimes for centuries,” maintains Razzak Hussain, 32, who has moved
his family down to Battagram, 120 km north of the capital, Islamabad, but
himself intends to stay on in his village, some 20 km outside the
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