Home South Asia Pakistan Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2019: KP Assembly’s solution to end child marriages

Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2019: KP Assembly’s solution to end child marriages

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government has proposed the Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2019 to replace the outdated colonial-era Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. The bill proposes the permissible marriageable age for girls and boys to be increased from 16 to 18 years.

Child Marriage

News Desk |

The social welfare department has finalized the draft of the proposed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Marriage Restraint Bill (CMRB), 2019, to replace the redundant and outdated colonial-era Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The proposed Bill has been designed and ushered forward to address the most vexing and contentious issue related to the permissible age of marriage for a female.

Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Minister for Information, noted that child marriages and forcefully marrying off underage girls was one of the most controversial issues across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The provincial government has exhibited a resolve to set the minimum marriageable age for girls and boys at 18, and this decision will be cemented with relevant legislation.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) 1929, which was still in practice in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was deliberated over by multiple stakeholders for the last five years, as lawmen and politicians attempted to establish its irrelevance. The CMRA 1929 regards a male child as a person if he is under 18 years of age, and female child if she is under 16 years of age.

18 years: Prohibitory age of Marriage

A working group, organized by the KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission, deliberated the problems associated with underage marriages, and concluded that the prohibitory age for marriage for both female and male ought to be 18 years.

A summary of the new Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2019, has been forwarded for approval by the KP Chief Minister, and will then be forwarded for a final approval from the provincial cabinet. The provincial government has exhibited a resolve to set the minimum marriageable age for girls and boys at 18, and this decision will be cemented with relevant legislation.

Addressing a panel discussion on the “Child Marriage Restraint Bill”, organized by the Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, in collaboration with UN Women Pakistan, Shaukat Ali Yousafzai noted that the CMRB 2019 is all set to be tabled in the KP Assembly once it is approved by the cabinet.

The panel discussion was attended by Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Dr. Qibla Away, Provincial Ombudsperson Rukhshanda Naz, notable gynecologist Dr. Sidra Jabar, Khateeb Masjid Mahabat Khan Peshawar, Maulana Tayyab Qureshi, and civil society representatives for Ending Violence against Women (EVAW) Alliance.

Maliha Asghar Ali Khan, Chairperson Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) and Zainab Qaiser Khan, Head of the KP Office UN Women, welcomed the attendees and thanked the parliamentary members for this initiative. In their respective statements, the dignitaries highlighted the consequences of underage marriages for both boys and girls.

They highlighted the human rights abuses with regards to a loss of childhood, lack of education and income generation opportunities, compromised reproductive development, lack of personal freedom, and the threats to physical and emotional wellbeing.

Sultan Muhammad Khan, the Provincial Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Human Rights, commented, “As legislators, we must not promote child marriages. Effective drafting and implementation of legislation is required to safeguard our children, particularly young girls. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is headed towards the right course.”

Read more: Child Marriage debate: Twitteratis slam the Council of Islamic Ideology

Countless underage girls and boys are forced into marriage under the garb of religious and cultural traditions. They are deprived of education and economic opportunities, along with harming them psychologically and physically, leading to a lifetime of suffering.

Dr. Qibla Ayaz highlighted that underage marriages cannot be encouraged as they trigger a wide range of complex issues for the married couple, their respective families and the entire community. Dr. Ayaz highlighted the multi-faceted social, psychological and physical consequences of underage marriages.

Dr. Sidra Jabar mentioned that the consequences of underage marriages are observed through generations, because the children resulting from such unions turn out to be weak, malnourished, and the mother is constantly at risk of physical deterioration and life-threatening ailments. The renowned gynecologist noted that a young mother is at a greater risk of health deterioration, chronic ailments and psychological illnesses.

Permissible Marriageable Age

The former PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had attempted to address the controversial problem of the permissible marriageable age for females, however, they had failed to cement the discussion.

At present, the in-practice Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 imposes a one-month punishment, with a fine of Rs1000 for committing a child marriage by a male older than 18 years

For several years, this controversial issue has been discussed across multiple forum, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology in March 2014, criticized and declared against raising the marriageable age of women from 16 to 18 years, citing the importance of upholding Islamic ideology and traditions and allowing children to get married whenever they attain puberty.

Speaking at a recent gathering, Ijaz Mohammad Khan, Deputy Chief Child Protection Officer KP, highlighted the differences between the proposed Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2019 and the existing legislation.

Ijaz Mohammad Khan highlighted that the proposed bill has assigned punishment of upto three years imprisonment and a fine worth Rs45,000 levied on those who commit this offence. He added, that the offence, as per the proposed bill, should be regarded as a non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable offence, and courts should conclude the trial within 90 days.

Ijaz Mohammad Khan added that the nikah registrar will be required to examine and verify the computerized national identity card of both the groom and the bride to provide the marriage registration documents.

Read more: Child marriage is still legal in the US

At present, the in-practice Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 imposes a one-month punishment, with a fine of Rs1000 for committing a child marriage by a male older than 18 years, for performing a child marriage, for parents or guardian involved in planning the child marriage.

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