The Legal Aid Society (LAS) collaborated with filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s production house SOC Films and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), and held a conference in Islamabad to launch five documentaries on women’s property and inheritance rights. The films aim to spread awareness of women’s rights to property and educate them on legal action they can take to protect their rights and how to access the laws of Pakistan.
The five documentaries, directed and produced by SOC Films, were showcased at this conference. The films highlighted issues faced by women, detailing some powerful storylines of women from across Pakistan as they fight for their right to property, reflecting the challenges they face in the pursuit of justice.
“There is a general exclusion of women’s narratives from the dominant storylines we see highlighted in the discourse around economic empowerment. The narrative around empowering and uplifting women to realise their legal property rights has to be created by and with women. Society has to become receptive to hearing their experiences as opposed to drowning them down with mythical norms. This is what LAS, SOC Films and NCHR are trying to do — we are facilitating women so they can identify and explain their challenges in accessing justice and are helping them win these battles,” said barrister Haya Emaan Zahid, who is the CEO of the LAS.
The depiction of these powerful narratives is important because a woman’s right and ability to own, inherit and control property is a key factor in their economic progression and mobility. Additionally, it empowers women and backs them up when it comes to voicing their needs and wants, making decisions for the household and leaving toxic domestic environments, if need be. It frees women from dependence, providing them greater autonomy in their own lives.
“Obstructing the right to property does not only restrict financial decisions and activities, it has a direct impact on women and their basic rights to safety, security and autonomy. This legal literacy initiative is to educate women on their inheritance rights and the ways in which they can access them,” said NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri.
Pakistan may guarantee protection of women’s right to own and control property under law and religion but practically, the situation differs. Women still find themselves feeling powerless like pawns in someone else’s game, unable to make decisions for themselves due to retrogressive norms and socio-cultural perceptions and practices. Pakistan ranks 153rd out of 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021.
“We have the legal framework in place for inheritance rights but most women, both in rural and urban areas, are unaware of the existence of these laws that protect and empower them. This lack of knowledge plays a major role in their unequal participation in the society. And with this initiative and these documentaries, we aim to help create awareness and strengthen women’s rights to property in Pakistan,” said Obaid-Chinoy.
The conference also highlighted other issues women battle that act as barriers in their rightful acquisition of property. The various themes included attitudes and practices barring women’s access to property, women as invisible citizens because of incomplete documentation or CNICs, female face of poverty as most Pakistani women do not possess the means or opportunity to build property or wealth, limited access to grievance redressal mechanisms due to lack of mobility and unsafe environments and lack of awareness of legal issues due to patriarchal customs.
The five films can be streamed here:
This is not LAS’ first collaboration with SOC Films, they also launched an animated series on inheritance laws this past December. The animated series comprised of nine animated films that shed light on women’s rights to marital and legal property in Pakistan. The films are available in eight regional languages to facilitate communities across the country.