More women in Pakistan are seeking divorce after an amendment to the Civil and Family Court Act 1964 took away the courts' discretion to push for reconciliation over long periods.
Securing a divorce has become easier since the amendment was introduced in 2002.
The court has to now decide the case after the three-month reconciliation period prescribed under the Muslim Family Law.
"And since it is not mandatory for the woman seeking divorce to appear personally in the court, the prospects of reconciliation recede further," says advocate Khurram Shahhzad Awan.
"No compromise means the court has to immediately pass the decree of dissolution."
Official data gathered by Dawn newspaper showed that 3,900 family cases were pending in 28 courts of civil judges in the eight towns of Rawalpindi district in December 2006 - nearly 1,200 more than the previous year.
Almost 50 per cent of these cases are related to women seeking divorce, according to an official of the Court of Senior Civil Judge of Rawalpindi. He could not provide exact figures.
Advocate Nasreen Akhtar, who specialises in family cases, says the amended law has made it easy for women to obtain divorce.
"It has made their life safer and more secure. Now women are more confident and their spouses more careful in their married life," she remarks.
She, nonetheless, stressed that women sought help from courts only after exhausting all means of reconciliation.
"Once the case is before court, the possibility of making up vanishes. The atmosphere in courts is not conducive to settle differences and strike a compromise," she observes.
Iftikharun Nisa Hassan, director of the Women's Research and Resource Centre, Fatima Jinnah Women's University, sees the rise in divorce cases as the "awakening of women".
Said Hassan: "Today women are getting educated and securing jobs and are less inclined to put up with inhuman treatment by their husbands. They are financially viable and seek second marriages for a comfortable life."
She added that the stigma associated with divorce had diminished to a great extent due to increased social awareness.
"Nowadays parents are supportive of their daughters in case of failed marriages. They help them in their legal battles," she observed.
"The current rise in the divorce rate is simply the exercise of rights by women within the limits set by our religious and national laws," said Hassan.