SHIKARPUR: Speakers at a one-day workshop for police personnel highlighted issues relating to child marriage and discussed ways and means to effectively implement the relevant laws.
The workshop was organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) in collaboration with the Save the Children in Shikarpur Gymkhana on Monday.
The speakers observed that underage marriage was a common practice across the country and the known factors appeared to be socio-cultural norms, poverty and a lack of preventive measures supposed to be taken by the relevant authorities. Underage children, specially
girls, are married in the name of socio-cultural norms, against heavy loans obtained by their parents or in compensation/penalty for an offended rival.
They noted that child/underage marriage was prohibited under the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 1929 and the amendment made to it in 2013 but police often did not intervene in most cases.
The participating police personnel were informed that the Sindh Assembly passed another amendment to the law on April 28, 2014 declaring marriage of an under-18 child cognizable offence.
The law prescribes up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine for offenders, including the new couple, their parents and any other person involved. The audience was also informed that anyone could lodge a complaint with a judicial magistrate against such a marriage and the case had to be decided within 90 days.
Iqbal Detho of the Save the Children and Mubashir Soomro of the DevCon and leaders of some other civil society organisations explained the Pakistan Penal Code and the criminal procedure code sections related to the law and urged the police personnel to fully comply with the laws while acting against offenders.
The speakers stressed the need for strictly implementing the law in order to save children from a lifetime syndrome.
Highlighting the repercussions of underage marriages, they said both male and female children suffered physically and psychologically because they appeared not matured at all to maintain the imposed relationship. “This unnatural bond arranged without the consent of the couple sometime turns traumatic for a girl as she is not physically and emotionally mature enough to become a wife or mother,” the speakers said. Even if she was close to adolescence and somehow managed to endure the experience, she was at great risk of suffering serious complications during the maternity process, they added.
Another concerted view of the speakers was that most such children, especially girls, were also vulnerable to domestic violence.
Shikarpur SSP Saqib Ismail Memon said that the conviction rate in such cases as well as those relating to domestic violence and violence against women had remained low in the past and the main reason appeared to be absence of solid evidence or flawed investigation. Stressing the need for proper investigation into such cases, the SSP suggested that provisions and sections of such laws must be made available to police officers in the Sindhi and Urdu languages along with the original script.
He said police also lacked proper equipment and facilities essentially needed to carry out proper investigation.
These reasons ultimately weakened the prosecution, he added.