It is heartening to see that the Punjab Assembly is taking some steps in the right direction to curb the menace of child marriage. According to the law of the land, no female under 16 and no male under 18 can contract a marriage for that is the legal age here. However, there are some traditional/cultural practices that allow for early marriages, which is what the Punjab Assembly has tried to overcome.
Tabling a resolution to bar child marriages in Pakistan, lawmakers have argued that the marrying of young girls and boys under the legal age is a practice that can have severe repercussions. One of the reasons why the female mortality rate is so high in this country is because young girls often die in childbirth, their fragile undeveloped bodies unable to take the stress. Many are married off against their will and, when it comes time to consummate the marriage, they are often raped. Above and beyond all that remains the simple fact that when a girl child is married off, her innocent childhood is lost forever. Such girls are forced to grow up and leave behind the best part of their lives, much like the condition of young children made to labour in harsh conditions. The psychological effects of the cultural malaise of child marriage are staggering and it is a welcome measure that the Punjab Assembly has moved to try and end it once and for all.
As can be expected, the only opposition to the resolution was by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a party keen to label child marriages a traditional practice not to be curbed. What else can one expect from the JI? Have we forgotten that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has been nauseously repetitive in trying to encourage this outdated and harmful practice? In its various meetings the CII has stressed how it is ‘un-Islamic’ to try and set a legal age and to ban child marriages. It even went so far as to label the country’s Muslim Family Laws as going against Islamic principles. One does not want to even contemplate why these maulvis are so keen to see child marriages flourish but civil society and our lawmakers need to push resolutions into actual Bills and pass laws to curb such practices. That is the only way to ensure that the children of this country, especially those who belong to tribal and traditional families, are not made to suffer anymore.