The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has revoked its policy of forcing women to take their husband’s name on the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) after marriage. The chairperson announced on Oct 15 at the end of the 14th Annual Rural Women Conference, that now women will have a choice to use either father or husband’s name on the registration form.
He added that the old policy was unofficial and it is not a man’s decision to pick a name on a woman’s ID card. Furthermore, no law has ever made it mandatory for women to update their names on the card after marriage. Chairperson also clarified that while women have a choice to add their husband’s name, they can still retain their father’s name in another field.
Can New NADRA Policy Empower Women?
According to reports, the change is monumental and will help women to take decisions individually without requiring any man’s involvement. However, the identity rights of women in Pakistan are ambiguous as can be seen from experiences shared on social media. Singer Meesha Shafi posted that she was not sure if this NADRA policy was important as she had never faced any trouble after getting married and not taking her husband’s name. One user replied that for her, it was different as her ex-husband forced her to take his name on the card and she faced difficulty in changing it back after divorce.
It shows that less privileged women were oppressed under the old policy and the system was unable to help them because of vagueness. The new policy is reportedly to improve the rights of women and give them complete authority over their identification. Now women do not have to rush to change their name due to anyone’s pressure. Moreover, in case of divorce, the system will reportedly not ask them unnecessary questions about why the woman has taken divorce. Therefore, it will be now an easy process for women to change their name after divorce if they are using their ex-husband’s name.
No More Asking Silly Questions from Women
The chairperson also admitted that whenever the woman went to NADRA to change her name after divorce, she was asked for the marriage certificate and many other documents before their request was processed. The problem with such NADRA policy was that women became fed up with the questions and avoided going to the NADRA office altogether.
Moreover, in some parts of Pakistan, Nikkah (marriage) is done through the procedure of Sharia only and the marriage is not registered or documented. Even women in rural areas are not registered due to many reasons. One such reason is that they get married before the age of 18 without their national identity cards and lose their identity rights to their husbands. Such married women cannot show any documents which makes it troublesome for them to get registered. However, now it will be easy for underprivileged women to get their id cards as they no longer need a man to justify their identity. Divorced women will also be free from the hassle of immediately getting a new ID Card, which might be required for second marriage.
Although the current format of ID cards does not explicitly mention if the person is single or married, there’s a bar code that may show all of the data on the computer. The status of being single, married, or divorced will probably get updated with NADRA after the finalization and can be verified using the bar code on the ID card.
Government’s Action to Register as Much Women as Possible
The benefits of the new policy are not limited to having a registered identity free of male control but also having the authority to perform several civic activities without male intervention. For example, women who are not yet registered with NADRA can go ahead by simply retaining their father’s name and get documented to exercise the right to vote. According to NADRA, there is a dramatic gap between registered men and women which is factually incorrect. The data shows that around 5.5 crore men and only 4.5 crore women are registered with the department.
Chairperson said that the authority has taken notice of the problematic gap and under the new NADRA policy, it has planned solutions for women that will not require them to visit the office. Reportedly, women can now register from their homes and the card will be delivered to them by women staff.
Women can now also find out through NADRA if their husbands have a secret second marriage.
This could be one of the government policies to register more women with NADRA, especially those who don’t register on time. Near election, registration drive is increased to document voters. Additionally, there are poverty programs, and also the ongoing vaccination drive for which an ID card is necessary. So, the government also needs to register those women with NADRA.