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‘Union council structure be strenghthened to control underage marriages’

‘Union council structure be strenghthened to control underage marriages’

Islamabad: Speakers at an awareness workshop stressed for strengthening of Union Council (UC) structure to control underage marriages taking place unchecked in the country.

Organised by Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) in collaboration with Aizan Development Foundation, Swiss Embassy and City District Government, Rawalpindi brig, the workshop brought together stakeholders from various sectors including government officials, policemen and women, marriage registrars, clerics, religious leaders, community heads and parents of out of school children.

The seminar was aimed at raising awareness on the causes and consequences of early child marriages and sensitising communities, particularly marriage registrars and parents so that they are more aware of the issues and consequences, such as impacts on the health of children, particularly young girls. The workshop discussion points included sensitization on the law, penalties, fines and punishments and way to report child marriage cases to the relevant authorities. Other discussions highlighted included the importance of Birth Registration and the Right to Education under Article 25A of the Pakistan Constitution.

Executive Director SSDO Syed Kausar Abbas said that SSDO and ADF believe sensitizing communities on the law and consequences will reduce the number of early child marriages throughout the country. “Both organizations feel passionate about protecting children from marriage and are confident that sensitization will surely help protect them from early child marriages and encourage education of children,” he said.

Uzma Nawaz Advocate briefed the participants about national and international laws and human rights conventions about the early child marriages. She said that one of the major reasons why early marriages go unreported and the crime is often un-attended is that the UC structure is not pro-active in marriage and birth registration, nor they bother about the ID-Card of a woman.

“The Union Council (UC) structure needs to be active enough to register the marriages while the ‘Nikah Khwan’ is responsible to cross check and verify the age of the girl or boy before the ceremony. The UC structure, with the help of police, should stop the marriage if the girl or boy is found underage for the marriage, she added.

She shared that there is a serious need to create awareness about birth registration process and the importance of birth registration. “There should be stricter, regulated or monitored criteria for issuing licences to ‘Nikah Khwan’ and Nikah Registrars. They should be provided proper training on the relevant laws of the country before they qualify to marry couples. The law needs to be implemented and fines and prosecutions need to be taken seriously, so that communities can become more confident in reporting cases,” she said.

Director in Ministry of Human Rights Kashif Kamal shared the details of website introduced by Ministry of Human Rights to address the issues of human rights. He said that the ministry of Human Rights is taking keen interest under the leadership of minister to improve the human rights issues in Pakistan. The ministry provides free legal aid, technical aid and shelter to the victims of human rights. He said that the helpline is accessible everywhere that can be used by victims to complain against the violation of human rights.

Additional District Collector General of City District Nazia Perveen Sudhan said that education can change the mindsets of the people about the early age marriages. She said that the awareness is required at grassroots level in educational institutions to create awareness among children. She said that City District Government is making its efforts to collaborate with civil society to address all important social issues.

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