The Early Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 defined the minimum age of marriage for males to be 18 years and for females to be 16 years. Until now, Sindh is the only province that has unanimously adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2014 which has raised the legal minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls to 18 years. Other provinces must also amend this law to protect and safeguard the interest of our underage girls and boys. The grim reality is that child marriage is rampant mostly in rural and tribal areas where around 35% of all child marriages in the country take place. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, 3.3% of girls are married off under the age of 15 while 18.3% of girls are married off before reaching 18 years.
In order to ensure compliance with age restrictions for marriage, submitting a copy of the CNIC of the bride and groom along with the nikahnama form must be made mandatory. The age-old practice of writing down the CNIC number of the father in order to meet the formality must be stopped. Furthermore, clerics must be educated on the matter and told not to go through with the nikah unless proper proof is provided. I urge the federal government to enforce this across all provinces in letter and in spirit.