Like his clever creator, Kipling’s fictional character of the orphaned/vagabond Irish immigrant child Kimball O’Hara – the devoted chela (disciple) of a lama – lived in late 19th century Lahore whose administration was run by 70 British civil servants. But, as seen in the photo, nowadays things are quite different in Punjab. Commando policewomen keep watch over Sikhs arriving in Wagah for pilgrimage near Lahore in the village of Talwandi (Sheikhupura district) where Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji was born in 1469. Despite such scenes, domestic violence remains at chronic levels in Pakistan. However, limited hope can nevertheless be found in the paradox that despite being a male dominated society, Pakistan’s feudal and patriarchal roots have produced strong willed women. Even almost a decade after her assassination, Pakistan is still very much Benazir Bhutto country. It is also Malala Yousufzai territory and the co-recipient of the Nobel peace prize (2014) is aspiring to follow in the murdered prime minister’s footsteps. Even Nawaz Sharif – a rather venal character who sold his soul to the ultra-misogynist Saudis long ago – has tipped his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, to be his successor and she seems destined to replace him if he cannot survive his heart problems and the political fallout of the Panama Papers.
SM, the appellant, was from Lahore. When she came to the UK in 2004 she abided by the terms of her visa and returned. But in 2006 she entered again and claimed asylum three-and-a-half years later in April 2010 on the ground that while in the UK she had become involved with someone other than her alienated husband, a wealthy and powerful person who would seek revenge upon her return to Pakistan, and had three children with him (but only after many miscarriages). She contended no shelter in Lahore would give her refuge and she was unable to relocate to another part of the country. In May 2010, her claim was dismissed and a decision was taken to remove her from the UK. Sitting as UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede, the Upper Tribunal dismissed her appeal on asylum, humanitarian protection and human rights grounds.
SM’s case was riddled with procedural complications. When, in 2011, the Court of Appeal decided to send it back to the Upper Tribunal, it did so on the basis that the question of SM’s ostracism as a lone mother with an illegitimate child had not been properly considered. Emphasis was placed in Scott Baker LJ’s judgment in SN (Pakistan)  EWCA Civ 181, which failed to produce country guidance upon remittal to the Upper Tribunal, where the court observed an absence of country guidance on the overall question of single women with children being returned to Pakistan. Many things can be taken home from this country guidance case. First of all, SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKIAT 00283 and KA and Others (domestic violence – risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKUT 216 (IAC) remain valid guidance except for the changes made by the present case.
Like so many unsuspecting Pakistani women, SM was under the illusion she was entering into a “love marriage” but soon afterwards she was disowned by her family, with limited resumption of secret ties with her mother. She initially lived in Lahore with her husband who left for Oman where she later joined him. He later shifted to the UK and she visited for a month but went back to live in Lahore, initially alone but later with her husband’s family who abused her. So she returned to join with her husband in Nottingham. She only had a visit visa but intended to stay in the UK. Her passport was taken by her husband to extend her visa and it was never returned, or so she said. She claimed her husband was a drunkard and saw other women. She was unable to have a baby with him but did suffer several miscarriages. He became abusive, and eventually violent, with her and expelled her from the matrimonial home in March 2007 because he saw her talking to a male neighbour. He apparently returned to Pakistan.
After being ejected from the matrimonial home, she turned to the landlady (“auntie”) who rented her another property where she met another lodger with whom she ended up having a son after several miscarriages. Upon learning this, her husband visited her family’s house in Pakistan and attacked her brother and abused her family because of her low moral character and illicit relations with other men. He behaved similarly to her family members when he encountered them in public and the incidents multiplied which led her to claim asylum in April 2010.
SM’s partner was also an unsuccessful asylum seeker who did not challenge the refusal of his claim. Their initial relationship was not strong – and he only met his son intermittently – but later solidified after they had two other children and she said he lived at an unknown address in Nottingham but is very fond of their children and has daily meetings with them. The whole family is Pakistani and none of them have any form of leave to remain. In May 2010 the home office did not accept SM’s account of domestic violence and found she could avail protection in Pakistan and could relocate to another part of the country even if there was a real risk of serious harm or a reasonable degree of likelihood of persecution in Lahore. She could divorce her husband. Yet that decision was withdrawn in September 2013 because it failed to deal adequately with the best interests of the children pursuant to the duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
In March 2014, a new decision said SM would not be at risk on return to Pakistan and could return there with her partner, and children, which would provide her with the protection of a male adult in Pakistan. Internal relocation to a different area of Pakistan, where their status as an unmarried couple was unknown, was considered a viable option. Even if their marital status became known, any societal ostracism that they may encounter would fall below the Refugee Convention standard and SM would still enjoy the benefit of her partner’s social and physical support and protection. The best interests of their children lay with them and removal of the family unit did not compromise SM’s human rights or the best interests of her children.
Dr Roger Ballard’s expert evidence suggested that a person in SM’s circumstances would be “kinless” in Pakistan. He said rich kinless women could overcome their predicament but otherwise without a suitable male guardian accommodation in Pakistan would come “with sexual strings attached”. He said women who were not accepted back by their families were at risk of being further ostracised on the basis that their sin must be exceptionally serious. Per the reports of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan he argued that women in Pakistan suffer chronic violence, discrimination, inequality, denial of economic rights and lack of control over their bodies and lives. (Despite disproportionate violence towards women in Pakistan, after Jo Cox’s murder in broad daylight I am not so convinced women in the UK are all that well protected.)
Dr Ballard also said that the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 – the brainchild of general Pervez Musharraf, a dictator who perhaps somewhat atoned the Pakistan army’s sins by trying to partially wash away the bloody stains of the dark and diabolical Zia years – was snubbed by the Council of Islamic Ideology (which Pakistan’s senate wants to see abolished) but conveniently forgot to mention that any law can be made without taking the Council’s advice. Contrary to Dr Ballard’s hyperbolic position, Professor Martin Lau, who did not act as expert in the instant case, has argued, rightly in my opinion, that Musharraf’s reforms “cannot be dismissed as a mere window dressing undertaken to satisfy a western audience.”
Christine Brown, a longstanding social worker with involvement in immigration and asylum appeals, gave specific evidence on the family situation between SM, her partner, and their children. She said that SM’s partner had never been in a relationship before. Her report described the family’s mutual dependencies and the parents’ interaction with the children. Brown said the children were “thriving” and if SM returned to Pakistan she would not be able to cope with them singlehandedly without her partner. Dr Ballard and Christine Brown did not give oral evidence and were presumably not cross-examined.
After trawling through a raft of official documents – from the UK, US, Canada – and analysing women’s rights about obtaining khula divorce, the tribunal took a fresh look at KA and Others (domestic violence risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKUT 216 (IAC). Examining the home office’s Country Information and Guidance: Women fearing gender-based violence, Pakistan, December 2015 and its predecessor, the tribunal noted that this report reiterated the guidance given in SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKIAT 00283. In other words, women in Pakistan remain confronted by patriarchy, misogyny, economic hardship and social pressures regarding independence and so internal relocation is likely to be unduly harsh for many of them even though educated and professional women may find it possible to support themselves in alternative locations.
The report also restated the concerns voiced by local human rights activists that a mixture of economic, religious and social factors make it “next to impossible” for a single woman to live alone in Pakistan. The findings of Aurat Foundation’s annual report 2013 also formed a part of the official guidance and it was clear that only a tiny number of women seeking refuge could get shelter and going to live in “a shelter is still considered taboo and perceived as the last resort of women who have been turned away by respectable society”.
Notably, indigenous critiques argue that the new Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Crisis Centres can only give women shelter for a couple of days and in the long run they are accommodated in the Islamabad Women’s Crisis Centre, or the Dar ul-Aman shelter homes of the provincial governments, or encouraged to settle their family differences. Reputational consequences also arise for women seeking shelter and while some good work is being done in the field, some places, such as Malala’s Swat valley, do not have any shelters at all and shelters in other locations are insufficiently staffed and occupants run the risk of further abuse.
The abjectness of the situation is reflected in Aurat Foundation’s 2014 report. It found seven functioning shelters in Karachi, one in Hyderabad, four in Peshawar, one in Islamabad, and one in Mardan district. Services in Mardan and Peshawar were deemed “highly insufficient and unreliable”. Wholesale violence against women in South Asia led the World Bank to conclude in 2014 that victims “rescued” from honor crimes also suffer abuse when remanded to safe houses where conditions are abysmal and prisonlike. Similarly, society rejects those who have been sexually abused because they are as “dishonored”, “spoiled” and “bringing shame to their families”.
The US State Department reached similar conclusions. It noted that the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Amendment Act 2011 criminalises acts such as (i) giving a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute (ii) depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means (iii) coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage and (iv) compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Quran, including forcing her oath on the Quran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance.
On the other hand, examining the murder of Farzana Iqbal – who was brutally murdered by male family members outside Lahore High Court in 2014 because of a love marriage without her parents’ consent – the US State Department could only be sceptical about real change despite death sentences that were pronounced to four men in the case. It also lamented that in 2010 in its bid to expand its power the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) declared several clauses of the Women’s Protection Act 2006 to be un-Islamic and unconstitutional. The Federal Government’s appeal against that decision is pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. If the government loses it might well be that the reinstatement of certain provisions of the Hudood Ordinance 1979 – as regards the FSC’s jurisdiction in cases of adultery and false accusations of adultery – could, as in the past, permit the use of adultery charges against women in cases of rape.
Looking at the options for divorce available to women in Pakistan – khula divorce or judicial divorce – the tribunal noted local experts’ concerns about the shortfall of real power in female hands because of men’s ability to unilaterally pronounce talaq despite both spouses having legal and religious rights to dissolve a marriage.
Since there is a strong urban/rural divide in Pakistan, women’s ability to live on their own is dictated by location and cities in Sindh and Punjab tend to be more liberal than those in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan. Despite specialist advice that women’s options to enter into battles with their husbands were potentially limited, the tribunal noted that recent legal reforms had resulted in “slow but visible cultural change”.
The tribunal also took a fresh look at the 2008 publication Safe to Return? Pakistani women, domestic violence and access to refugee protection – a report of a trans-national research project conducted in the United Kingdom. Highlighting that this joint report of the (now closed) South Manchester Law Centre and Manchester Metropolitan University was considered in KA and Others, the tribunal adopted the approach entailed in the earlier country guidance case where concerns were expressed at para 210 et seq about the dossier and “caution” was urged because of its age and the fact that it was a “campaigning document” written as a critique of authoritative case law on internal relocation by legal practitioners who which it consider it “too restrictive”. In KA and Others, the tribunal found that, as a study, Safe to Return? was “not simply an assessment of the situation in Pakistan”.
As manifestations of “broad generalisations” its main findings were “troubling” as they and the authors accepted that “their research had various limitations”. It was heavily reliant on press coverage and did not have strong empirical foundations to support the broad generalisations made, about women returning to their abuser husbands for example, because it was (a) geographically limited (b) without access to comprehensive data regarding women’s centres in Pakistan and (c) based on input from victims of domestic violence or service providers involved with them. The tribunal said that country guidance should “avoid broad generalisations” and focus on “the individual’s particular circumstances”. As regards domestic violence, it found slow improvement in the overall situation in Pakistan but said that the country’s size, geography, attitudes and perceptions meant that it was impossible to generalise/predict what might happen in an individual case? For example, a key interviewee said in the report that “Lahore is a city and here women are progressive”.
But on the subject of the availability of shelters and whether it was unduly harsh for internal relocation purposes to expect women to use them, the tribunal found in KA and Others at para 236 that it was insufficient to answer questions about internal relocation by reference to the availability and adequacy of shelters/refuges. Apart from the conditions in the shelters themselves, it was important to focus on the general position women would be put in by using the shelters in the long run. It was also observed that on entering a shelter a mother with male children over the age of five would be confronted with the choice of having her sons put in an orphanage or madrassa. Against the backdrop of domestic violence, such children may have specific psychological needs. In circumstances where mothers were forced to make such a difficult choice the children’s trauma could only intensify upon separation. The tribunal, however, did not see that as fatal to internal relocation but said such a situation “may be a factor which has considerable significance when considering the reasonableness of internal relocation”: para 242.
UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede adopted the above analysis of Safe to Return? and they endorsed all the findings made in KA and Others regarding the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 which led to the release of 2,500 female prisoners, restricted the ambit of the abhorrent CIA and Saudi supported Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, disempowered husbands from registering a First Information Report (FIR) with the police alleging adultery and even reformed bail rights in adultery cases.
Similarly, findings about high levels of domestic violence and the patriarchal nature of Pakistani society were also endorsed and it was stressed that in assessing whether female victims of domestic violence have a viable internal relocation alternative, regard must be had not only to the availability of such shelters but also to the situation they will face after they leave such centres.
It was clear to the tribunal that on the whole women at threat from their husbands/families would not be protected by the Pakistani state despite recent legislative reforms. Family support, male protection, educational credentials, wealth, age and potential internal relocation to one of the larger cities were all important factors in measuring the nature, source and scope of the risk in the specific case under consideration. The tribunal accepted Ms Brown’s evidence about the strong and growing bond between SM, her partner and their children. It noted that Dr Ballard was a respected personality and had assisted as expert in TG and others (Afghan Sikhs persecuted) (CG)  UKUT 595 (IAC) and his evidence was accepted that female heads of households without make backing may be considered “kinless” Pakistan.
On the other hand, the tribunal was concerned about the fact that Dr Ballard’s “report provides no sources for his opinions and conclusions” and treated “with a degree of caution” his assertion that short of a room in a five star hotel a woman would male backing would be at risk of accepting an accommodation offer which she realised too late came with sexual strings attached. The evidence of the Canadian IRB or the US State Department Report contradicted his theory, one he advanced without differentiating by age, social position, education or financial resources. However, subject to caution on similar grounds, the tribunal concurred with Dr Ballard that where a woman’s family will not accept her return to them, she runs a higher risk of ostracism on the basis that her sin would be perceived as having been exceptionally serious.
UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede also made other points worth noting. It was widely accepted that women can divorce in Pakistan by (a) khula divorce, which requires the filing of a divorce suit at the Family Court, either within Pakistan or from overseas through the appointment of an agent by way of a power of attorney (b) or judicial divorce, pursuant to section 2 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, on a limited number of grounds, including where the whereabouts of the husband have not been known for a period of four years. As confirmed by the Canadian IRB it is incorrect that divorce proceedings cannot be initiated without the husband’s consent, or without a Nikah Nama. Poor, uneducated rural women totally dependent on their family for support were in much greater danger of falling into serious difficulty if ostracised for having a love marriage or for divorcing their husband.
Heartless as it may seem, the tribunal decided that the UK would not be in breach of its international human rights obligations, or any other international obligations, if SM and her family were sent back to Pakistan. The overall finding was linked to the conclusion that, other than her assertions, nothing by way of evidence suggested that he “retained any interest in her”. He ended the relationship. In the eight years since then he had not contacted SM, nor sought to file charges against her for adultery, or to harm her in any other way.
All that steered the tribunal to find against SM. But they threw caution to the wind and by falling into the trap of believing – indeed as many abused women do – the presenting officer’s misguided argument that he may even have divorced the appellant unilaterally by way of talaq. Strictly speaking, because of the terms of section 7 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, it is not possible for a husband to unilaterally divorce his wife by saying “talaq, talaq, talaq” without meeting the other statutory conditions. In reality whosoever contravenes the requirement of not giving the chairman notice of talaq and copying the same to his wife is “punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year of with a fine of five thousand rupees or with both.”
It was held at para 102 that returning SM, her partner and their children as a unit was a viable option and they could relocate outside Lahore, there was no reason why they should face problems as an unmarried couple and no reason why they could not marry. Her partner could work in Pakistan as a chef, driver and machinery operator. Similarly, nothing suggested that the partner’s family would reject her and their grandchildren, but in any event it was held the family could establish themselves in Pakistan with or without the support of extended family members. She would not be at risk of being regarded as a single woman, or an adulteress, and the risk of being subjected to ostracism and discrimination did not arise. Her circumstances in Pakistan would not amount to a risk of persecution or serious harm and her appeal on asylum and humanitarian protection ground was therefore dismissed.
The article 8 analysis was also against the family who fell outside the scope of Appendix FM. They were also not aided by the any exceptional or compelling circumstances outside the rules warranting the respondent to consider exercising her discretion, as set out in Nagre  EWHC 720 (Admin) and endorsed by the Court of Appeal in Singh  EWCA Civ 74. The section 55 duty did not matter as, with the oldest aged six, the children were “still very young.” Insofar as part 5A of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (as amended) and the statutory presumptions set out in section 117B were concerned, it was apparent that they operated to dilute the family’s article 8 claim because they were a burden on the public purse. The children were not qualifying children because they were not British or settled here, the couple’s family and private life had developed when they were here without leave.
The tribunal had already found in 2012 that Ahmadis are not entirely unsafe in Pakistan. It also said in 2014 that Christians are discriminated against but not persecuted. Now it has gone down the same road in relation to ostracised women. This is really astonishing because it is a well-known fact that more than a thousand women are murdered annually in Pakistan in the form of honour killings. Things are so badly out of control even the mullahs are not happy about the state of affairs and have issued a joint fatwa condemning honour killings. But the killing of the social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered only yesterday, shows that things are only getting worse. Qandeel Baloch, dubbed “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian” who desired Indian citizenship because she was “disappointed from Pakistan”, dared to challenge stereotypical views on women but became the latest victim of Pakistan’s culture of intolerance because her brother strangled her for bringing dishonour to her family. Of course, the maximum punishment must be imposed on her killer so that justice can be done in her case. “Nothing is good in this society. This patriarchal society is bad,” she said in a recent interview. But her unrepentant brother Waseem Azeem, who is a drug addict, does not regret killing for dishonouring the Baloch people.
It is impolite to curse the dead. But since we are not living in Solon’s Athens, where speaking ill of the dead was forbidden because it was considered just to spare the absent and smart to rob hatred of its perpetuity, it must be said Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was a brutal and murderous swine. Dead or alive, it is hard to look at his American, British and Saudi backers in any other light. Zia gave Pakistan its insane blasphemy laws. Tens of thousands of people were accused of blasphemy after 1987 whereas only a handful of accusations occurred prior to that. Indeed, throngs of people poured onto the streets to show solidarity with Mumtaz Qadri – former governor of Punjab Salman Taseer’s bodyguard who murdered his boss for supporting reprieve for Asia Bibi (a Catholic who is on death row for blasphemy) – when he was executed.
“The context of a blasphemy trial is all powerful in its ability to corrupt,” is how Isabel Buchanan neatly explains the situation in her new book Trials: On Death Row in Pakistan. Buchanan highlights that it is accepted in official circles that two-thirds of the 8,000 people on death row in Pakistan are in fact innocent. She also explains that the president of Pakistan is not in a position to pardon someone accused of blasphemy, which is ultimately a crime against God. The big legal problem, of course, is that the complainant is a mere witness and not the victim. Buchanan laments that the “power of the blasphemy charge” sets the stage for a “climate of fear” in Pakistan which in turn throws cases out of control. She bemoans that in the case of Yasir Ansari, which was a land dispute in reality, the medical report produced in Pakistan regarding his sanity was prejudiced against him and his British medical record was found to be in admissible in a Pakistani court.
Terrible as that may be, it is also true that the immigration courts in the UK also routinely disallow expert reports from being admitted. The judges cheat and lie about the law at every turn despite being free from the pressures of unruly mobs outside their courtrooms. So Orientalists such as Buchanan should be slow to assume their country’s superiority because even though immigration appellants in the UK are not charged with blasphemy, some of them will most certainly die upon return because of the vile/victimising judicial decisions in their cases. I am not talking about some foreign criminals or a drug dealing asylum claimants but about 80 year old Indian widows who are badly mentally ill and will die in India without the care of their British families.
Zia’s hudood laws also introduced stoning to death and whipping (the latter for married women and the former for unmarried women) and amputation for theft (of the right hand) and robbery (of the right hand and left foot). However, from what is known, the state has not yet actually inflicted these penalties on accused defendants because the standard of proof is a particularly high one. Where the accused is Muslim the standard requires four male real time “Muslim” witnesses of good repute (or “tazkiyah al-shuhood”) testifying to the crime. Since it is a particularly corrupt country where lying and cheating are a way of life, the judges of the FSC (which hears appeals in cases involving Sharia based punishments proposed by trial courts) have never found the standard of proof to have been in fact be met. They probably never will because there are no real Muslims in Pakistan.
With his customary excellence Lau, who for example unlike William Dalrymple is not exactly an echt kabootar baz, argues that Islamisation in Pakistan is “judge led”. But local knowledge indicates that the judiciary was probably trying to save its own skin. Many Pakistanis will know only too well that Islamisation in Pakistan was achieved through the barrel of the gun by the armed forces. Worse still it was the Americans, British and their vile Saudi allies who colluded with the army to inflict deep and lasting wounds on the country as the free western world sat around the arena as spectators and applauded Zia; who, for example, even personally ordered the executions of young democracy activists such as Nasir Baloch (unrelated to Qandeel Baloch, who has become the latest “Girl in the River”).
The FSC, which has recently appointed its first female justice (who must be lonely like Lady Hale), is an odd institution. Its creator Zia personally thought two women’s testimony was worth one man’s. Because real judges outnumber Islamic ulama by five to three the FSC has found technical flaws in all the stoning and amputation appeals presented to it; which effectively meant that the sentences passed were not inflicted. Despite only women only holding six per cent of the judicial positions in Pakistan, the mere fact that women can even sit on the FSC to vitiate the wishes of the Islamic ulama is quite ironic and must make Zia turn in his grave.
I guess it will be up to Pakistanis to secularise our Pakistan and throw all the dirt from the past into the dustbin forever. The good news of course is that Pakistan is still Benazir Bhutto country. It is Malala Yousufzai territory.
As for women’s evidence equaling half that of men, even when she was a minor Muhammad’s wife Ayesha’s testimony was upheld as equaling (arguably even exceeding) that of a man when she was falsely accused of adultery. And, in part, she even successfully defied male dominated Arabia by leading troops into battle by picking a fight with not just any man, but a very powerful man indeed – i.e. Muhammad’s first cousin and protector, Mawla ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib father of the (later) martyred Imam Ḥusayn (see here). As a good Muslim, he showed mercy and spared her life. Instead of having her beheaded or stoned to death for staging a rebellion against his Caliphate, Imam ‘Alī, who as a man of war was quite well accustomed to bloodshed, preferred to ostracise her for her insolence and cheekiness. As the Prophet of Allah himself said in unambiguous terms without hesitation at the pond at Ghadir Khumm in 632 AD:
He of whom I am the Mawla, of him Alī is also the Mawla (man kuntu mawlāhu fa-ʿAlī mawlāhu) …
According to the Upper Tribunal:
- Save as qualified by the present case, the existing country guidance in SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKIAT 00283 and in KA and Others (domestic violence – risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKUT 216 (IAC) remains valid.
- Where a risk of persecution or serious harm exists in her home area for a single woman or a female head of household, there may be an internal relocation option to one of Pakistan’s larger cities, depending on the family, social and educational situation of the woman in question.
- It will not be normally be unduly harsh to expect a single woman or female head of household to relocate internally within Pakistan if she can access support from family members or a male guardian in the place of relocation.
- It will not normally be unduly harsh for educated, better off, or older women to seek internal relocation to a city. It helps if a woman has qualifications enabling her to get well-paid employment and pay for accommodation and childcare if required.
- Where a single woman, with or without children, is ostracised by family members and other sources of possible social support because she is in an irregular situation, internal relocation will be more difficult and whether it is unduly harsh will be a question of fact in each case.
- A single woman or female head of household who has no male protector or social network may be able to use the state domestic violence shelters for a short time, but the focus of such shelters is on reconciling people with their family networks, and places are in short supply and time limited. Privately run shelters may be more flexible, providing longer term support while the woman regularises her social situation, but again, places are limited.
- Domestic violence shelters are available for women at risk but where they are used by women with children, such shelters do not always allow older children to enter and stay with their mothers. The risk of temporary separation, and the proportionality of such separation, is likely to differ depending on the age and sex of a woman’s children: male children may be removed from their mothers at the age of 5 and placed in an orphanage or a madrasa until the family situation has been regularised (see KA and Others (domestic violence risk on return) Pakistan CG  UKUT 216 (IAC)). Such temporary separation will not always be disproportionate or unduly harsh: that is a question of fact in each case.
- Women in Pakistan are legally permitted to divorce their husbands and may institute divorce proceedings from the country of refuge, via a third party and with the help of lawyers in Pakistan, reducing the risk of family reprisals. A woman who does so and returns with a new partner or husband will have access to male protection and is unlikely, outside her home area, to be at risk of ostracism, still less of persecution or serious harm.