Child rights: Sindh makes marriage under 18 punishable by law

Published: April 29, 2014
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Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, who is also the minister for social welfare and women development, presented teh bill along with Sharmila Farooqui. PHOTO: NNI

Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, who is also the minister for social welfare and women development, presented teh bill along with Sharmila Farooqui. PHOTO: NNI

KARACHI: 

The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a law on Monday declaring marriage below the age of 18 years punishable by law and a violation of the rights of children, becoming the first province to do so.

Two separate bills on ‘Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Bill 2013’ were moved by Pakistan Peoples Party MPAs, Sharmila Faruqi and Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, who is also the minister for social welfare and women development. The landmark bill on this sensitive issue came with amendments to the ‘Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929’ after 85 years.

Both the bills were introduced last year and were referred to a special committee, headed by the social welfare minister, to start consultations with civil society organisations and law experts. The committee comprised of members of the Pakistan Muslim League – Functional, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, retired judges, religious scholars and representatives of women’s rights organisations. After three meetings, the members drafted the bill.

Once the bill becomes law, any victim can file an application before a first-class, judicial magistrate. The offenders can neither be granted bail nor  allowed to reach a compromise and grant pardon.

“Whoever contracts a child marriage or facilitates it shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment that may extend up to three years,” the law states. Giving a briefing on the objectives of the law, parliamentary affairs minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said the government wanted to protect the basic rights of children when drafting the law.

It will be applicable to parents, guardians or any other person who, in any capacity, promotes marriages of both boys and girls who are under the age of 18 years. The trial cases registered under this act will be concluded within 90 days.

Qaimkhani appreciated the role that the male lawmakers played in framing the law. Even during the debate following the bill, the MPAs insisted the law should be strictly implemented.

“Most people within our ranks deal with jirgas that solemnise the marriages of minor girls,” pointed out PPP’s Nadir Magsi, adding that nearly 80% of the child marriages are not even reported in Sindh. “We want to see proper implementation of this bill.”

Magsi suggested getting the media on board to inform people of the law. “Change in our society can only be possible when cases are registered against parents and the people holding jirgas,” he said.

Information minister Sharjeel Memon promised a three-month-long campaign on this law in newspapers, radio and television channels. “We will issue advertisements in the newspapers from Tuesday (today),” he said.

PTI’s Dr Seema Zia talked about how necessary it was for the couple to consent to the marriage while Faruqi, who also moved a similar bill, called the day a historic one for the assembly. “Apart from the vigorous punishment, the fines have also been increased from Rs1,000 to Rs45,000,” she said.

‘Copy culture’

The opposition members staged a token walkout from the Sindh Assembly session against the ‘copy culture’ in exams. As the session started with deputy speaker Shehla Raza in chair, PML-F’s Nusrat Seher Abbasi moved an adjournment motion.

“This is a recent and a public-interest issue,” she said. “Even after the imposition of Section 144, copy culture flourishes every day. The teachers, parents and the district administration are helping students use cellphones during their exams.”

Education minister Nisar Khuhro told her that the department and the chief minister have taken notice and formed vigilance committees. “Please do not use the word ‘culture’ with ‘copy’,” he added. As Murad Ali Shah was filling in for Raza, he dismissed the motion in haste, which irked the opposition members. They staged a walkout in protest.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • hehe
    Apr 29, 2014 - 2:48AM

    From a PTI supporter: Well done!

    Recommend

  • Azmat Khan
    Apr 29, 2014 - 3:06AM

    Very good PPP and the whole Sindh assembly.This law will go as a landmark in the history of the Sindh assembly.If a girl marries when she is only 18 she can become a mother within a year.Still this age is very young.In Pakistan mostly a baby’s care is solely the responsibility of the mother and it is not an easy task.I will suggest their should be facilities provided by the government so that a girl can make family not before she is around 24 years.

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  • The Economist
    Apr 29, 2014 - 6:18AM

    Good Job! Keep it up
    lets hope other states also do the same.

    Recommend

  • Apr 29, 2014 - 6:40AM

    Good step forward. Disagree with Azmat Khan’s comment. I don’t even know what this means: “I will suggest their should be facilities provided by the government so that a girl can make family not before she is around 24 years.” Once marriageable age, a couple are free to decide when to have kids and when not to. We don’t need to legislate that at all. Thanks.

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  • Jibran
    Apr 29, 2014 - 8:04AM

    This should be adopted throughout Pakistan. 50 year olds should no longer be allowed to marry 12 year olds, and neither should child brides be offered to settle family feuds. Girls are not objects.. PERIOD.

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  • A\
    Apr 29, 2014 - 9:08AM

    Congratulations Sindh Assembly, step in the right direction! Now comes the tough part, application of law

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  • Saad
    Apr 29, 2014 - 9:33AM

    I am happy in an odd way, that 75+ yrs wont marry a 12 yrs old again. I wish Pakistan all the best in these human efforts to protect innocent girls getting sold as collateral. This has nothing to with feminist movement or any political party movement just has to to do humanitarian movement.

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  • TaraK
    Apr 29, 2014 - 9:55AM

    This is one of the best news of the year. For the first time in Pakistan, a state has moved to ban child marriages. This will mean that girls education will be promoted, the economy will progress, and there will be fewer cases of child abuse due to forced marriages. Thank you Sindh Assembly and those who pushed for this bill- a big fan of your decision today- it will forever change the lives of many.

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  • Apr 29, 2014 - 12:03PM

    Too many laws without implementation is as good as toilet paper. Are the members of the Sindh Assembly jubilant???
    Who cares for the law. Just don’t implement it and keep on assuring and reassuring that action is being taken and have a couple of photo shoots and newspaper articles.
    If under age marriage can be resolved against, then how about strictly implementing the law against karo-kari and jirga edicts? If this is implemented sincerely against 75 percent of the rich and poor culprits, then it will bring about a signal change. BUT impartiality and economics is the CLARION CALL. Salams

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  • poleturtle
    Apr 29, 2014 - 12:48PM

    With such miserable poverty in the interior of Sind, this Law will be a huge burden on poor parents. The minimum age should have been 16 instead of 18 years.Recommend

  • Nobody
    Apr 29, 2014 - 4:28PM

    @poleturtle:
    That will only perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty for generations. It has to stop at some point and one of the factors contributing to a growing poverty rate is early marriages + many many manyyyy babies in families that cannot afford them.
    Breaking the cycle will take many efforts, and stopping child marriage is one of them.
    Cheers.

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