LAHORE: A bill proposing an amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 has been approved by the Punjab Assembly. Under the new law, parents and clerics who allow the marriage of underage children will face greater penalties than they had under previous versions of the law.
Among the revisions to the law are the imposition of a six-month prison term and a fine of Rs50,000. In addition, there will be a prison sentence and fine imposed on the cleric overlooking the marriage ceremony.
Previously, parents faced a month-long prison sentence and a fine of Rs1,000, while clerics were not penalised in any way. The changes have been made after the Punjab Assembly had, earlier this year, discussed the possibility of amendments to the law.
The Sindh Assembly passed a Child Marriage Restraint Act in 2013, making it the first provincial assembly to do so.
In December last year, Justice Shaiq Qazi had emphasised the need for clarity regarding child marriage legislation.
“It is stated that whoever indulges in child marriage is a criminal. But then who is that really? The parents or guardians? The Qazi who performs the nikah? The guests at the wedding? Who? It is important to define who that criminal is because you cannot offend the people, you need their cooperation to implement the law. So more work is needed here," he had said.
He also warned against citing religious precedent concerning the marriage of minors and touched up on the need for ensuring the law is followed.
“Only adults have the sound mind and judgement to understand the terms and conditions of a contract. So that should be stressed more. Also look into preventing the wrong older age being written in the nikah papers. What can be done is add a provision of return of the Qazi every month or so to report how many nikahs he has conducted and how old the brides were. Then he may be extra cautious about the girls’ ages.”
Read more: Amendments to the Anti-Child Marriage law