PESHAWAR: Blue Veins with the support of Canada Fund for Local initiatives (CFLI) organized a Multi-stakeholder’s consultation in Peshawar to review the latest available provincial drafts of Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2016 and develop a consensus based best amended pro-girls and women marriage restraint act draft to be presented in the KP Assembly. The consultation aimed to reduce ideological conflict amongst all multi-stakeholders on the draft of the bill and improve the existing draft before it is presented in the KP Assembly.
The participants of the consultation expressed disappointment and concern over the National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs rejecting a proposal to raise the minimum marriage age for girls to 18 years, the same as boys, after several committee members declared such a change ‘un-Islamic recently at the National Assembly of Pakistan’.
The civil society representatives expressed grief that over the sad fact that no more than a couple of lawmakers chose to stand up for the rights of the girl child on Thursday, as the Standing Committee on Religious Affairs shot down proposed amendments to Child Marriage Act 1929, regarding minimum marriage age for girls.
Qamar Naseem Program Coordinator Blue Veins and focal point of the Provincial Alliance to end Child Marriages KP/FATA said that “The attitude of the standing committee members who quietly surrendered to the diktat of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) cannot be deplored strongly enough. Indeed, they bear more responsibility for protecting obscurantism than even the members of the CII. “It seems that the Quaid-e-Azam’s struggle to have minimum age of marriage prescribed for Muslim girls through the 1929 law has no relevance to all those who claim to have inherited his ideology. He further added.
Zar Ali Khan coordinator of Child Rights Movement (CRM) FATA while expressing his views on the occasion said that “ Comments by the Council of Islamic Ideology – calling child marriage restraint law “un-Islamic” – do not reflect progress in Pakistan”
Khushnuma a lawyer from Peshawar High Court said “Sindh increased the age of marriage to 18 for girls in 2013; Punjab tightened punishment against child marriages in 2015.Pakistan should disregard the Council’s position and honor its many commitments to end child marriage”
Taimur Kamal coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network while expressing his views said that “Practices in relation to child marriages should have to change. Large spousal age differences are common and may limit married girls’ autonomy and decision-making ability. Government must act wisely and without any delay.
Mufti Rahim Dad while expressing his views said that “ Islam does not encourage child marriages while there should be a relaxation that when there is a need to perform such marriage it should not be stopped by the law. In the current draft of the bill it should be mentioned that Such marriage can be performed with the permission of court. Religious leaders and Civil society has to build brides to end the child marriages.
Noor Zaman Khattak Director Human Rights Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said “KP Government is committed to bring forward right based legislations. Human Rights Directorate is ready to serve as a bridge between Government and civil society and the recommendations of civil society will be forwarded to the relevant line agencies.
During the consultation it was disused that Pakistan is signatory to The Khartoum Declaration, Cairo Declaration on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Islamic Jurisprudence, The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which require Pakistan to make concrete efforts to end child marriages.
Vigilant groups from Charssada and Mardan were also part of this consultation it is anticipated that this platform will serve to represent voices from the grass root levels as the momentum is around their rights and its social implications. The crux of participatory representation would be to draft a policy inclusive of voices of praise of this forced customary practice.
Following recommendations were brought forward by the Participants of the consultation to promote later, chosen, legal marriage
- Raise awareness of the extent of early marriage and the human rights abuse it constitutes.
- Minimum Legal Age of marriage should be raised to 18.
- Engage communities through public campaigns, pledges, or incentive schemes.
- Raise the awareness of parents, community leaders, and policy-makers about the health and rights implications of young girls marrying much older men.
- Develop special social and health support structures for young, first-time mothers.
- Encourage governments and communities to commit to getting girls to school on time and to keeping them in school through the secondary level. Being in school during adolescence has important health and development benefits for girls.
- Develop social and economic programs for out-of-school girls, including nonformula education programs.
THE PASHTUN TIMES