The Lahore High Court has ruled a historic verdict that second marriage of a mother cannot be a sole ground to deny her custody of a minor child.

The ruling passed by Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf, is a welcome repeal of the practice whereby a woman could be punished by the ex-husband for expressing the desire to remarry by threatening to contest for sole custody of the child. The Pakistani guardianship courts have always maintained that the paramount consideration while deciding custody matters is always the welfare of the child. Yet, there are too many loopholes in the traditional custody law governed by the Guardians and Wards Act 1890, which leaves it exposed to abuse by aggrieved parties in custody battles.

In two recent cases, where the courts had allowed the father to gain sole custody due to a second marriage of the mother, the judge observed that both the courts had grossly misjudged the material pieces of evidence that would aid in settlement of the welfare of the minor. He proceeded to rule on the basis of second marriage of the petitioner with a person who is not related by blood to the minor. This historic ruling will put thousands of mothers at ease, many of whom would rather stay in abusive marriages than to lose their children in custody battles.

Separation and divorce are traumatic experiences for children, but the onus to make a marriage work, or the consequences if it does not, cannot solely be on the woman alone. It is cruel that women have to be put in a position where they have to choose between an abusive or unhappy marriage or lose their children. The same demands have never been put on men and the arrangement is socially and legally unethical.