ISLAMABAD: The Balochis­tan government informed the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) on Tuesday that the province had penned draft legislation, to be known as the Balochistan Child Marriage Prohibition Act, to outlaw child marriage.

The bill will be submitted to the provincial assembly for approval soon, the court was told.

The information was shared with a two-judge FSC bench, consisting of Chief Justice Dr Syed Muhammad Anwer and Justice Khadim Hussain M. Shaikh, during a suo motu hearing regarding forced marriage of a five-year-old girl in Khuzdar.

The FSC had initiated suo motu hearing in October after reports emerged that Muham­mad, a resident of Khuzdar, had married off his five-year-old daughter under the pressure of tribal chiefs.

The reports were based on an FIR lodged in Khuzdar police station.

The case was registered under sections 1- 6 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, which prescribes a punishment of up to six months for individuals who arrange the marriage of a child and under Section 34, which deals with acts done by several persons for “common intention”.

FSC took suo motu notice after learning about forced marriage of a five-year-old girl in Khuzdar

Dr Anwer, the Shariat Court’s chief justice, took suo motu notice, after going through reports of several child marriages, on grounds that child marriage was un-Islamic as well as against the Constitution.

According to the Shariat Court, the cruel, un-Islamic ritual is found in many parts of Pakistan where girls are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes, including murder.

On Tuesday Mohammad Farid Dogar, the Balochistan government’s law officer, told the court that the provincial government had prepared a draft law to prevent child marriage in the province following the suo motu notice taken by FSC.

The proposed law was aimed at preventing child marriage and protecting the rights of children in the province.

The draft law was prepared by the provincial government in consultation with the province’s Commission on Status of Women and the Social Welfare Department.

Petition against Sindh law rejected

On March 6, the FSC had rejected a petition filed by a citizen challenging the vires of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2013 by holding that the act was in accordance with the injunctions of Islam and did not violate constitutional or Islamic provisions.

The Sindh law was enacted to prevent child marriages by fixing a minimum age limit and to promote the protection of children’s rights by setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for both men and women.

The Shariat Court had held in its order that setting a minimum age limit for marriage was “Mobah” (permissible), but not mandatory (Farz).

The age limit allows a reasonable time to girls to complete their basic education, which helps in developing mental maturity (Rushd) in a person, the court added.

The fixing of an age limit for marriage by the state or a government is not against the injunctions of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, the FSC explained. It added that in the light of goals of Shariah (Maqasid Al Shariah), the state had a responsibility to protect the physical, as well as the mental health, of a citizen.

The state could take steps and set certain minimum thresholds for an action to protect a person, or a category of persons, to block the means of harm or evil that may be attached to child marriage under the concept of an Islamic law.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2023

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