Participants of a two-day youth conference demanded on Monday legislature set the minimum age for marriage at 18 years for both boys and girls and urged the government to stop child marriages.
Shirkat Gah - a women’s resource centre – had organised the National Youth Convention on Peace, Pluralism and Democratic Norms.
The objectives of the event were: advancing women’s participation in public and political arenas for strengthening democratising processes; building women’s leadership, especially amongst youth, to resist the undermining of societal pluralism; advocacy for women’s inclusion in all public forums; and promoting the accountability of government officials.
The participants came up with a charter of demands and presented it to the parliamentarians.
“In order to stop child marriages, governments in the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan must pass legislations that set 18 years as the legal age for marriage for both girls and boys,” the first demand read.
The participants welcomed the recent legislation and guidelines on child marriage, domestic violence and Darul Aman in Sindh and demanded strict implementation of the legislations. They demanded that other provinces follow Sindh’s lead.
“Governments in all four provinces are asked to recruit women police officers. So that common women are not reluctant to approach police,” the second demand read.
The convention demanded immediate implementation of Article 25(A) of the 18th Amendment. “Free education should be provided to all children aged between 5 and 16 years. In addition, vocational training institutes should be developed so that unemployment and poverty was reduced,” the charter said.
“The provincial governments are asked to review curricula at private schools and madrassahs. Any curriculum promoting hatred, violence or prejudice should be banned.”
The participants said that peace committees in all provinces should be made functional and women’s and minorities’ participation in these should be ensured.
The youth asked the provincial governments to hold local elections and to ensure at least 50 per cent women’s representation. “Out of these 50 per cent seats, 10 per cent should be reserved for women from minority communities. Ten per cent of the seats should be reserved for male representatives of minority communities,” the charter said.
The youth demanded that women be given the legal right to choices regarding reproductive health.
Minister for Planning, National Reforms and Development Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan’s progress could not be ensured without the participation of women in all fields of life. “Women in Pakistan face restrictions in the name of culture. Despite the odds, they are growing stronger and are more committed to their cause today,” he said.
Awami National Party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been hit the hardest by terrorism and other non-state actors. “Our province has faced the brunt of war on terror. In order to achieve true empowerment, it is extremely important to first ensure peace,” he said.
Senator Saeed Ghani said that the Pakistan Peoples Party had always supported women empowerment. “I am a senator today because my grandmother wanted her children to be educated and become productive citizens,” he said.
Senator Rubina Khalid, MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik and Bushra Gohar too attended the event.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2014.