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Karachi Chronicle: Rights of the girl child

Karachi Chronicle: Rights of the girl child

By: NARGIS KHANUM

People of Sindh were reassured, and proud, they had elected right-thinking legislators, when MPAs from both sides of the aisle signed a resolution rejecting the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) anti-female recommendations last Monday. The house strongly recommended scrapping the CII since it is unable to perform a positive role and has caused more damage than Pakistan can afford. The resolution was unanimously adopted when put to vote.

It now remains to be seen if the federal government will adopt the resolution to do away with the CII. The opinion here in Karachi is that the CII will remain, but to appease critics its chairman will be replaced with another person of the same stripe as the incumbent Maulana Mohammad Khan Shirani. In short, the status quo will continue, with CII recommendations, putting a spanner in the works of every good bill which favours a better life for girls and women.

You wonder if the CII does anything positive that would benefit society. It is in the limelight when it pronounces negative ‘fatwas’ such as on the issue of forced marriages of Hindu girls to Muslims, the inequity it supports for persecution of non-Muslims girls and women, etc. The general impression is that the CII has an agenda to degrade the quality of women life on the pretext that its recommendations are Islamic. Whichever political party heads the government in Islamabad, it treats the CII recommendations with respect. Its recommendations generally carry weight because of some obvious reasons. It renders the government speechless and the legislators helpless to counteract any inequity.

The Sindh Assembly resolution mentions three burning issues: on which CII opines! that marriage of minor children (girls) is Islamic; that the DNA test for rape incidents is unnecessary; that the husband need not ask permission of his wife for a second marriage. These days the issue of child bride is uppermost because the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 was tabled in the National Assembly on 25 March, despite being underscored by the March 10 fatwa of the CII that minimum age of marriage was against Islamic teaching and that a child of any age could be married if she had attained puberty. Later the CII chairman said the bill should not have been tabled. He termed the bill ‘NGO-centric’.

By stating that the bill should not have been tabled, Shirani indicates what the CII thinks is more important than what the elected legislators think. It does not matter to him that the public approves because we sent those MNAs who represent our sentiments. By terming the bill NGO-centric, he is obliquely criticising the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which in 2009 recommended to Pakistan to implement the Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929) with amendments to raise the minimum age of marriage of girls to 18 years. The United Nations, as everyone knows, is not popular with the fundos.

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