JUST a day after the Senate approved a bill by the PPP’s Sherry Rehman to increase the minimum age of marriage to 18, a similar bill that was pushed by the PTI’s Ramesh Kumar Vankwani was heavily debated in the National Assembly.

Both bills agree on increasing the age of marriage to 18, but they differ on what punishment should be meted out for violations.

Interestingly, while the women parliamentarians of the PTI and PML-N seemed to be in favour of passing the bill, citing the example of other Muslim countries, their male compatriots remained divided on the issue. They could be heard either vocally opposing the bill or seen passively refraining from the vote.

Similarly, loud opposition could also be heard when the bill was passed in the Senate — expectedly from the religious parties, but also from some members of the government.

The reaction from some elected parliamentarians and senators is not surprising as we have witnessed similar responses each time such a move has been included in the national debate before. But it is still disheartening to note how many continue to endorse the marriage of children under the guise of religion.

Although Pakistan is a signatory to international rights treaties that recognise anyone under the age of 18 as a child, deep-rooted cultural beliefs are not easily eroded with a single flick of the pen.

So far, Sindh is the only province to have successfully increased the age of marriage to 18 — and that too after much opposition.

During the recent resistance, Senator Rehman correctly pointed out the inconsistencies in Pakistani laws when it comes to recognising who is a child. For instance, one cannot vote in elections before the age of 18; in fact, one cannot even be issued a CNIC. So how can these youngsters be considered mentally mature to be married off?

Early marriages deprive children of the right to complete their education, and they are forced to take on the burden of adult roles and responsibilities.

Young mothers face health-related complications during pregnancy and childbirth as their bodies are not yet fully developed. Having little to no agency, child brides are especially vulnerable to rape and domestic abuse.

Let it be said in unequivocal terms that child marriage is a harmful cultural practice that deprives the child — and particularly the girl child — of the opportunities that every individual deserves in life.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2019

Opinion

The rich boys
Updated 22 Sep 2021

The rich boys

Such is the toxic masculinity of these rich boys that no one is safe from it.
Going nuclear
22 Sep 2021

Going nuclear

Australia may regret its ‘forever partnership’ with the US.
Politics’ winged chariot
Updated 21 Sep 2021

Politics’ winged chariot

When others are shifting gears to election preparations, the PML-N is caught in its internal woes.

Editorial

22 Sep 2021

Interest rate hike

THE State Bank’s decision to raise its key interest rate by 25bps to 7.25pc underpins its acceptance of emerging...
PCB chief’s challenge
Updated 22 Sep 2021

PCB chief’s challenge

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has propelled fears of regional insecurity.
22 Sep 2021

No need for secrecy

THE government should not make a mountain out of the Toshakhana molehill. That would only encourage speculation of...
What’s the game?
21 Sep 2021

What’s the game?

Such brinkmanship is being fuelled by incendiary rhetoric as well as inflexible demands of a unilateral nature.
21 Sep 2021

Gas price hike

THE proposed hike of 24pc-37pc in the gas price of the top 23pc residential consumers, who account for 43pc of the...
21 Sep 2021

Green Line buses

AT long last, the first batch of vehicles for Karachi’s Green Line bus project arrived from China on Sunday,...