The government is set to introduce a bill to outlaw the marriage of girls under the age of 18 on March 8, MPA Mary Gill said on Thursday.
She was addressing a consultation meeting on the issue of violence against children, organised by the Children Advocacy Network (CAN).
“Under the proposed law, special permission will be required from a court for the marriage of a girl between the ages of 16 and 18,” she said.
She said that there was a need to enforce child rights laws. She asked the civil society to suggest law reforms.
Atif Khan, a legal adviser working with the CAN, said that there was an urgent need to improve the legal system and police for dealing with children who had suffered violence and abuse. “A special cell should be created within police to investigate and deal with cases of child abuse. This will help speed up the investigation. It will also keep children away from the unhealthy impact of visiting a police station,” he said.
He said that special circumstances that had been laid out in the Juvenile Justice Ordinance could also be applied to children who had suffered violence. Khan said that a children-friendly legislative framework was needed.
Iftikhar Mubarik from Plan International said that child rights interventions in the past had not been structural and strategic. “This has left huge gaps. Various people and organisation are working in isolation in sectors like sexual abuse, child labour and corporal punishment. However, none have been brought under the ambit of child protection,” he said.
Mubarik said that a special session was held on November 25 in the Punjab Assembly to discuss legislation about child rights. “The Child Protection Policy was passed in that session. However, it is still lying with the Planning and Development Department. There is a need to create a structure to redress violence against children, instead of leaving such cases at the mercy of political and judicial interventions,” he said.
Nasreen Farooq from the Child Rights Commission highlighted the role the commission played. “The commission can take action against any injustice or violation of child rights in government departments. A decision taken by the commission can only by challenged through a plea to the governor,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2015.