Sindh passes law to curb child marriage
Raises marriageable age limit for girls to 18 years and violators face three years in jail
- By Mohammad Ashraf, Correspondent
- Published: 19:11 April 28, 2014
The bill was tabled in the assembly last year by Sindh Minister for Culture Sharmila Farooqi and Provincial Minister Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani. They were part of an eight-member committee, which was tasked on August 1 with preparing drafts in consultation with the stakeholders. The legislation cover child marriages, honour killings, harassment of women and acid attacks.
The matter was taken up in the provincial assembly session on Monday that was presided over by deputy speaker Shahla Raza, in absence of the speaker.
The existing Pakistani laws, the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, already restricts the marriage of females under 16 or males under 18. But the law has been violated ruthlessly and child marriages remain rampant, especially in the rural areas of the country.
Nevertheless, the new law has increased the minimum age limit of girls to 18 years. According to the new law, in cases of underage marriage, the parents, bride and groom can all be sentenced to three years in prison and can be fined Rs45,000.
Child marriages have been a social menace across the country but preventive laws could not be made because of resistance from conservative and religious groups.
There is no proper survey on the number of child marriages in Pakistan but it is considered that they take place in large numbers, most of them goes unreported as much of them are performed in rural and remote areas.
Around 40 per cent of Pakistani women getting married are under the age of 18, some reports said.
Many non-government organisations working on the issue had reported that such marriages were widespread and on the rise despite the social campaign against them.
The Sindh and the Punjab provinces are one of the most impoverished and thus vulnerable areas of the country with regard to child marriages. Out of poverty, many surveys suggest, the parents are often tempted to sell off their young girls for money to a man twice or thrice the age of the girl.
The brides are sold at varying rates ranging from 150,000 rupees to 500,000 rupees.
The Sindh Assembly is the first assembly in the country to pass a bill of this kind.
Civil society activists, bureaucrats and the media believe it will take time to implement the law, for which Health and Nutrition Development Society, an NGO, has been struggling for the last two years.