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Bill proposes marriage age for girls as 18

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will soon table a bill in the provincial assembly to fix the minimum age for marriage at 18 years, said provincial social welfare and women empowerment minister Sitara Ayaz on Friday.

The statement came after speakers at a consultation voiced concern about the growing number of child marriages in the country and demanded amendment to the law for increasing the minimum age for girls to marry from 16 years to 18 years to contain the trend.

The event was organised by Noor Education Trust with the collaboration of ActionAid, Sparc, Blue Veins and CRSD on how to improve public awareness to contain child marriages and influence the authorities for legislation against the practice.

Representatives of NGOs, Child Protection and Welfare Commission, media, the provincial assembly and Women Rights Commission showed up in large numbers.

The minister said early marriage was a social issue and the present government was committed to legislating to check it in consultation with all stakeholders, including religious leaders.

“A bill will soon be tabled in the House for increasing the permissible age of the girls to marry to 18 as that of the boy. Under the bill, the minimum fine for child marriage will be Rs100,000,” she said. Ms Sitara said poverty, illiteracy, social and cultural practices were factors cited for the prevalence of child marriages.

MPA Munawar Sultana, who was also in attendance, said child marriage was unjust and unlawful and there was a dire need to amend the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929. Deputy Speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Khushdal Khan said the law regarding marriage of minors was a criminal offence. He said a male of less than 18 years of age or a female of less than 16 years was called a child. He said the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 had a penalty of Rs1,000 and imprisonment of one month to those violating child marriage ban each.

The deputy speaker said the government was committed to protecting the rights of women and children and that the lawmakers of the treasury benches would support the proposed amendment to the Marriage Restraint Bill in the assembly.