Khula cases rising in Karachi due to greater awareness of rights, simple legal process

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KARACHI: It has been four long years since Saima*, now in her mid-30s, entered into a marriage filled with dreams and promises of a bright future, but now those promises lie unfilled.

Saima had agreed to get married after her would-be husband assured her that he would relocate from Hyderabad to Karachi, allowing her to pursue higher studies. Unfortunately, as time passed, those promises began to crumble.

Her husband, burdened by financial constraints, was unable to fulfil his commitment to move to Karachi. Frustrated and disheartened by his behaviour, and his failure to keep his promise, Saima made the difficult decision to leave him and seek refuge at her parents’ home.

When the two families could not reconcile their differences, she eventually filed a suit in a family court in Karachi’s District West, which was decreed earlier this year. Islam allows a woman to seek Khula (divorce) from her husband if he fails to fulfil his marital responsibilities.

According to the official statistics available on the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) website, in the year 2020, a total of 11,605 women had filed suits for Khula across the province.

Out of these, 5,845 suits had been instituted in five districts of Karachi, while the remaining 5,760 suits had been filed in other districts of the province.

The number of Khula suits increased in 2021, reaching 15,950 province-wide, which indicates a significant 37 per cent increase compared to the preceding year. Out of these suits, 8,220 had been filed in Karachi, while the rest of the province saw 7,730 suits being instituted.

In 2022, there was a modest increase in the number of female litigants approaching family courts for Khula, with around 16,217 cases province-wide. This represented a mere 1.67 per cent increase over the previous year.

Out of these cases, 8,467 suits had been filed in five districts of Karachi, with the remaining 7,750 suits being instituted in other areas of the province.

The statistics highlight that the number of Khula cases is consistently higher in Karachi than the combined total of such cases in the rest of the province.


In 2020, a total of 14,448 suits had been disposed of across the province, with 7,570 cases having been concluded in Karachi and 6,878 in other districts.

Moving on to 2021, there was an increase in the number of suits disposed of, reaching a total of 19,832 province-wide. Out of these, 10,399 suits had been disposed of in Karachi, while the remaining 9,433 cases had been decided in other cities of the province.

In 2022, a total of 19,497 Khula suits had been disposed of across the province. Out of these, 10,640 suits had been disposed of in Karachi, while 8,857 cases in other districts. By the end of December 2022, 1,599 suits were still pending disposal in family courts throughout the province.

The data was uploaded on the SHC website after this writer submitted an application to the registrar under the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016, for the provision of the same.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world experienced a string of unforeseen changes and shifting dynamics. As Pakistan, like other countries, navigated through the challenges, a distressing trend began to emerge: a significant increase in the number of Khula cases.

Talking to The News, Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman said that the increase in the number of women seeking Khula following the pandemic seems logical.

She explained that the pandemic-induced economic downturn resulted in a significant loss of jobs, forcing many working individuals into unemployment, and women, who were previously employed, also had to stay indoors. Furthermore, she said, with schools closed and children unable to attend classes, the overall stress and worries within households escalated.

Worries increased manifold, and levels of intolerance within relationships heightened. The strain caused by financial difficulties, prolonged confinement at home and other domestic issues added to an increase in the breakdown of marriages and relationships.

Mahnaz attributed the higher number of Khula cases in Karachi to the comparatively higher level of empowerment and awareness among women in urban centres. She said women in urban areas possess a greater understanding of their rights and are aware of options like Khula.

On the other hand, in rural areas women tend to rely more on male individuals and may have a limited awareness of their rights, which can contribute to a lower incidence of Khula cases, she pointed out.

However, Barrister Amna Usman, who specialises in family litigation, believes that the simple and expeditious process of obtaining Khula has lately encouraged more women to walk out of abusive or toxic marriages.

Previously, there was a prevailing perception that litigation is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, which often compelled women to remain trapped in abusive and unhappy marriages, she explained.

Awareness, coupled with reforms in district courts, has made it more accessible and simple for women to seek legal remedies such as Khula. The Khula process is now simple and expeditious, as women don’t need to produce any witness, and the mere statement that “Ab Guzara Nahi Ho Raha” can lead to the dissolution of marriage.

Amna pointed out that Khula suits are decided expeditiously, within a maximum period of two to three months. She said that the list of grounds laid down in the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act for a woman to seek Khula is not exhaustive. Domestic abuse and failure to fulfil obligations are among the main reasons, she added.

Advocate Rashid Mahar opined that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the means of livelihood and social behaviours, saying that job losses led to domestic issues, driving up the ratio of Khula cases.

Mahar said that domestic violence which eventually resulted from financial woes and inability to pay maintenance was now one of the main reasons behind the increasing number of women seeking Khula. Other factors include living in a joint family set-up and interracial marriages, where there is no chance of reconciliation, he added.

He feared that the number of Khula cases might rise in the current year because of the prevalent economic crisis affecting the lives of people, especially those belonging to the lower income groups.

Published at The News on 29th June 2023

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