LAHORE: Child marriages in Pakistan need to be curbed through a multi-sectoral approach combining health, rights, protection, education, skills/ livelihood and social protection etc.

This was a consensus among participants in a technical group meeting for Ending Child Marriages through multi-sectoral approaches in Punjab organised by the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi and the Democratic Commission for Human Development at a local hotel on Monday.

Hina Jilani, Supreme Court advocate and human rights activist, stressed the need for collecting evidence-based data through researches and then approaching the target audience to get the desired results.

She identified various lacunas in the existing legal framework and stressed that the best interest of the child should be the paramount consideration while making any effort to reform and revise child-related laws.

HRCP’s Husain Naqi said the 18th Amendment would be a facilitator in stopping child marriages instead of a hurdle as being said generally.

He said the Child Protection Cell was working in big cities, stressing that it must go down union council’s level.

He called for conducting research in areas where the incidence of child marriages was higher.

Mr Naqi said an HRCP report had suggested that the girls’ marriage age had increased in areas where the carpet industry had reached homes and where girls became earning hands for the family.

Expressing concern over the silence of the Punjab government on child marriages, Mr Naqi urged all stakeholders to make an effective mechanism both at the policy and grassroots level to curb the menace.

ITA director programme Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the multi-sectoral approach needed to be adopted to end child marriages. She said that Lady Health Workers should also be engaged as they could serve as a treasure of information to make interventions in different parts of societies.

Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fauzia Vaqar and DCHD director Tanveer Jahan also spoke.

Published in Dawn March 3rd , 2015

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