LAHORE: A seminar on Early Child Marriages in Pakistan was held on Wednesday by students of the Social Work Department at the Lahore College for Women University in collaboration with Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) and ActionAid.
PCSW Chairperson Fauzia Viqar, said the provincial assembly of Sindh had taken the lead in this regard and passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 declaring marriages between people below the age of 18 punishable.
Viqar said such legislation was under discussion in the Punjab as well, and would hopefully be passed soon. She said we need to improve the standard of education to change the mindset of the masses, which will then reduce the prevalance of early marriage, she said.
Viqar said that Pakistan had ratified the Child Rights Convention which states that anyone less than 18 years of age is a child. It is the need of the hour to change the permissible age of marriage from 16 to 18 years in all the provinces in light of this convention, Viqar said.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf MPA Nausheen Hamid said “One of Quaid-i-Azam’s most notable contributions was his success in 1929 in extending the scope of Sarda Bill, which had sought to ban the marriage of under-age Hindu girls, to Muslim girls”. She said Jinnah had been opposed by many Muslim clergymen. Hamid said that unfortunately daughters were considered a burden by some people, such families tried to marry them off at an early age. Hamid said that women who got pregnant before 15 years of age had five times the risk of dying during child birth, and the babies risked congenital abnormalities, mental retardation, and premature birth. She said Pakistan had one of the highest maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in the world.
MPA Faiza Malik congratulated the Sindh government for passing the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which makes marriage below 18 years of age a non-bailable, non-comprisable offence and punishable with three years imprisonment and a Rs45,000 fine.
Malik hoped the Punjab would soon pass a similar law, as well as the domestic violence bill, in the forthcoming session. She said she had submitted a domestic violence bill in 2011 and had been promised that it would be included in the women empowerment package of 2012. She said a similar bill had been submitted by Nausheen Hamid. She said they were promised that it would be included in the women empowerment initiative of 2014.
SPO regional head Salman Abid said child marriages raised the risk of pregnancy complications, health risks for babies born and mortality. He said child marriages were strongly linked to gender inequalities. He added that in Pakistan, cultural, social and religious biases greatly affected women. He also asked how people’s mindsets could be changed when the majority of the population was illiterate.
At the end of the seminar the guests distributed certificates amongst students of the Social Work Department.