Sindh’s Provincial Assembly has proposed a new draft law on making the marriage of 18-year-olds mandatory as soon as possible.
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Called the ‘Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021’, the proposed regulation recommends fines for parents who fail to marry their children off after they come of age, which in this case, is 18 years.
The Act details that in the event of delayed marriage, parents will be obligated to inform the Deputy Commissioner in writing, giving a comprehensive explanation for the same. If the reasoning indicates grounds for a fine, the bill states that the parents should deposit a fixed amount (which will be revealed after the Act is passed) into the official bank account of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office.
The bill has reportedly won the approval of numerous members of the Sindh Assembly, and its initial implementation phase is expected to be added to the federal pipeline in the coming weeks.
In Pakistan, child marriage and women empowerment have been controversial topics because of Islamists’ rigid position on jurisprudential matters. Recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) said that a “better way” to tackle the prevalent practice of child marriages is to start an awareness campaign among the masses instead of passing legislation.
A CII spokesperson reportedly said that the council in its 212th meeting had discussed the matter in detail and had arrived at the conclusion that “legislation against child marriage and setting an age limit will lead to many complications”.
The CII’s proposal allowing a man to ‘lightly beat’ his wife– if she defies the husband among a number of other reasons– back in 2016 had attracted severe criticism. The proposal came as part of CII’s own women protection bill, after it rejected Punjab province’s controversial Protection of Women against Violence Act, branding it un-Islamic.
Analysts believe that the CII has failed to perform its actual role of interpreting Islam while keeping into consideration the existing socio-political realities. In an article, Zoya Kaleem notes that “the CII could not perform its due functions; on the contrary it has caused social confusion. As most of the time instead of modernizing Islam it pushed the religion back to the medieval ages.
It creates confusion for the lay media and public. Any development regarding human rights and especially women empowerment is simply rejected and declared un-Islamic, as a consequence less-educated and overly-emotional segments from Pakistani society get frustrated between religious orthodoxy and modern liberalism. Our CII failed to find out any middle way to make Islam and modern democracy compatible.”