Mental maturity key in marriage age debate, say religious scholars

Scholars, activists agree on reviewing the minimum age for marriage of girls

APP September 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The debate on the marriageable age of women in the country must account for more than just the age of puberty, but it must also account for when girls achieve the mental maturity to raise a wholesome family.

This was stated by Syed Ahmad Binori, a religious scholar from Karachi’s Jamia Binoria while addressing a national convention against the practice of child marriage. The convention had been organised by the Centre for Communication Programmes Pakistan in collaboration with civil society organisations from across the country that formed the 'End Child Marriage in Pakistan' caucus.

Binori stated that according to Islam, it is imperative to take into account the mental maturity of both the boy and the girl entering the marriage contract. He added that if only the physical maturity of the couple are taken into account while ignoring their mental maturity, a wholesome family unit cannot be formed.

"In the absence of mental maturity, we cannot expect a Muslim family unit to be a model in today's world where we are at risk of moral degradation," he said.

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Dr Raghib Naeemi, a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII)— the chief Islamic policy guiding body of the country — stated that while Islamic laws provide certain leeway over child marriage, it is not compulsory.

Dr Naeemi stated that they have to start considering raising the age of marriage as the issue of child marriage was creating moral, social and financial challenges for people in our society.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) Chairperson Maliha Ali Asghar Khan said that the provincial government is mulling a draft bill to increase the age for marriage for girls from 16 to 18-years-of-age to bring it at par with that of boys.

A draft bill in this regards has been sent to the provincial cabinet for approval before it can be tabled in the assembly, she stated.

During the convention, it was disclosed that the average age of marriage for girls has increased according to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey 2017-18. However, there has also been an increase in the number of children born to girls between the ages of 15 to 16 years-of-age, which is alarming.

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The national convention showcased provincial case studies related to sociological and religious drivers of child marriage, cultural practices, gaps in legislation and issues faced by communities with the current applicable laws of child marriage, poster exhibition against the practice of child marriage, an advocacy booth where civil society showcased their respective material.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Rahila Khadim Hussain said she tried to get the law in Punjab amended, but while she was able to have some of the harsher punishments for those violating the law on the minimum age for marriage enacted, she was unable to increase the legal age of marriage owing to opposition from other lawmakers.

She added that she has submitted a bill against the practice of child marriage in the Punjab assembly.

A renowned religious scholar from the Darussalam Madrassah in Islamabad Maulana Sharif Hazarvi remarked that it is essential that in our cultural and sociological context when we review child marriages and the responsibilities that a girl has to bear after marriage.

“We have to think of increasing the age of child marriage until such a time the girl can inculcate moral values and educate her children to face the world,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2019.

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