The Senate has passed a bill to amend the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890 to give legal cover to the right of divorced and widowed mothers to get custody of their minor children. Obviously, the existing law is in conformity with the Sharia, and the amended legislation too will certainly be in agreement with Islamic tenets. The Guardians and Wards (Amendment) Bill 2020 will have to get input from the Council of Islamic Ideology on which Ulema of all schools of thought are represented. The proposed amendment will become law after it is passed by the National Assembly. However, even at present courts award the custody of minor children — boys up to the age of seven and girls up to 16 years — to mothers. The proposed amendment only seeks to give this right of women a legislative form.
Divorced and widowed mothers get custody of their children in view of the formative years of children and on consideration that at mother’s place they will get a proper upbringing and education. In cases where women are found incapable of properly looking after their children’s welfare, fathers are awarded the custody of children. Whether children are given in the custody of either parent, one of the parents has the right to meet his/her children. Sometimes problems do occur when either mother or father don’t allow children to meet the parent with whom they are not living permanently. Or mother/father live in places difficult to access. In cases where divorced or widowed women live at distant locations and places which lack basic amenities, children are given into the custody of their father.
Under the proposed law, divorced and widowed mothers will be able to get the custody of children if their father is unfit to support the latter. Both the laws currently under operation and the proposed one takes care of mahram and na-mahram, because if the widow/divorcee contracts a second marriage, her brothers and other relatives become na-mahram for her daughter/s by her first husband.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2022.