Child marriage

Published: January 21, 2013

DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB

In what can only be described as a missed opportunity, the Child Marriage Restraint Amendment Bill 2013, presented in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly last week, was rejected by most lawmakers. What makes this particularly telling is that ANP MPA Munawar Sultana, who was presenting the bill, was unable to get the support of her party members, especially parliamentary party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain who in 2010 had said he supported imposing restrictions on child marriages. Mr Hussain appeared to have reneged, saying that there was no age limit in other Islamic countries for marriages. Ms Sultana should be commended for recognising just how child marriage stunts a child’s growth on a personal, health, social and educational level and how this impacts society but sure enough, she was slammed for promoting a Western agenda.

At the heart of the matter lies the reality of traditions like vani and swara that cannot be eradicated overnight, especially if they are not backed with a steely political will of lawmakers, religious leaders and tribal clan leaders. And they have not ever been as we have seen time and again, as powerful chieftains who are also parliamentarians attend jirgas and give young girls away — as if they are spoils of war — to settle a dispute. In the backdrop, law enforcers watch, knowing they cannot do anything, though they are armed with a plethora of laws they can enforce, including, for example, the K-P Child Protection and Welfare Act which was passed in 2010 to protect children against early marriages.

Let us drop the pretense about other countries not having a minimum age, or conspiracies out to ‘get us’. Child marriage is a scourge plain and simple. It is also against the law, both on an international level, as Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, which refers to early marriage as the marriage of people less than 18 years of age, and on a national level, where we have prohibited it under the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2013.

Reader Comments (5)

  • Jan 21, 2013 - 10:48AM

    Unless and until the issue of religion associated with child marriage is not addressed, forget about having a consensus on it.

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  • toticalling
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:48AM

    I agree that child marriage is nothing less than evil. Just because a fourteen year old girl is capable of having sex, does not make her an adult to make decisions of importance. It is time laws are introduced for a minimum age of 18, if not 21 and those breaking the law punished.
    In most cases the reason is that parents are afraid of the ‘sexuality’ of their daughters.

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  • bibi
    Jan 21, 2013 - 6:36PM

    It’s true that Islam allows marriage at any age though. So it’ out of or hands whether or not its good or bad for our countries kids.

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  • Leila Rage
    Jan 21, 2013 - 9:28PM

    bibi: Islam does NOT allow marriage at any age. Specifically, marriage is ONLY possible after both partners have crossed puberty. But knowing the abuses that occur with marrying off young children, in the light of Islam it is possible to legally and religiously raise the age limit to complete adulthood, ie after 21 years of age.

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  • Rakib
    Jan 21, 2013 - 9:51PM

    Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, which refers to early marriage as the marriage of people less than 18 years of age, and on a national level, where we have prohibited it under the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929.

    Most appropriate reminder in a very timely Editorial. India owes a debt or three (at the least) to Quaid-i-Azam. This Act of 1929 is one of the three significant contributions of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Subcontinent when he, along with Rai Sahib Harbilas Sarda, ensured passage of the Bill. (the other two being Wakf Validating Act 1930 & his persistent efforts, along with Motilal Nehru, through Sandhurst Committee to set up Indian Military Academy at Dehradun in 1933)

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