Peshawar: Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and in the low value accorded to girls and is exacerbated by poverty, insecurity, and conflict. It denies girls their rights and undermines numerous development priorities. Ending child marriage requires long-term, sustainable action across many different sectors. A robust legal and policy framework for preventing child marriage and supporting married girls should be the cornerstone of government efforts to address the practice. It was discussed in the Political Parties Roundtable on Ending Child Marriages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa organized by Blue Veins in collaboration with the Child Welfare & Protection Commission Govt of KP under the Power to Girl Campaign.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 sets the legal age of marriage for boys to 18 and 16 for girls. Pakistan has the 6th highest number of girls married before the age of 18 in the world. The legislation to raise the minimum age of girls from 16 to 18 is pending for the last several years in KP and the draft of the legislation is awaiting the approval of the Cabinet before it could be introduced in the KP Assembly.
The seminar discussed in detail that Members of Parliament are uniquely positioned to shape, advance, and implement such a framework. They can lead the development of relevant legislation and policies, pass budgets, monitor implementation, and ensure accountability for both national and international commitments. They can guarantee the voices of citizens are heard, including those of the girl child.
The members of the political parties were informed that The Federal Shariat Court’s latest ruling should lay to rest a nearly century-long debate over an issue directly impacting the well-being of girls and society as a whole. In a 10-page verdict, the court stated in unequivocal terms that setting a minimum age for marriage is not against Islamic injunctions. Basing much of its reasoning on the importance that Islam places on education, the verdict observed that the CMRA helps girls at least get basic education and cited the example of several other Islamic countries with similar legislation on their statute books.
At the same time, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has also asked the government to launch an awareness campaign to end child marriages in Pakistan and has also provided a recommendation that a uniform marriage registration form should be developed and that National Identity Card should be declared mandatory for marriage in Pakistan.
The members of political parties were informed that an increased number of Muslim countries including Saudi Arabs have increased the minimum age of marriage to 18 and Jama Al AzharOne of the world’s most prestigious centers of Islamic learning has issued a fatwa against child marriage, saying marriage should be based on the consent of both parties and “, particularly the young woman”.
The deputy grand imam of al-Azhar said that“Marriage in Islam is based on the consent of both parties, particularly the young woman. Such consent requires the young woman to have reached the age of maturity and reason so that her consent is validly given,” the fatwa read, adding that this age was 18, and quoting parts of the Qur’an and the hadiths of the prophet Muhammad to support it.
Rehana Ismail Member Provincial Assembly and Member from JUI Said “While often the focus on ending child marriage is on ensuring the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old, a broader set of laws and policies should be put in place to protect girls at risk and support married girls to ensure they fulfill their potential” . Recommendations from the Council of Islamic Ideology should be followed’ She added.
Chief Khateeb Khyber Pakhtunkhwa MolanaTayabQureshi Said “Islam has ensured gender equality and women’s rights in every sphere of their life. Islam has guaranteed rights of men and women to an equal degree and there is no discrimination between men and women. But due to the prevailing socio-cultural norms and practices in our society, the guarantee of Islam does not get translated into tangible actions.
ShaziaAurangzaib from PML (N)Said that Child marriage is a serious human rights violation affecting children’s and women’s rights to health, education, equality, non-discrimination, and to live free from violence and exploitation. KP Government needs to reflect its political will and present the bill to KP Assembly without further delay.
MohmmadIjazDepty Chief Child Welfare & Protection Commission “ Many parents marry off their daughters young because they feel it is in her best interest, often to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault”
Qamar Naseem Program Manager Blue Veins said “ KP Government needs to have clear and consistent legislation that establishes 18 as the minimum age for marriage. Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure that parental consent or other exceptions are not used to force girls into marriage”.