Girls and representatives of civil society urged the chief minister to take steps for increasing the minimum age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18 years.
The demand was made during an orientation session on “Recent Legislative Developments around Child Marriages in Punjab” in a local girls’ college on Tuesday to sensitise the young girls about the recent legislation enacted by the Punjab Assembly to prohibit child marriages in Punjab.
Nazeefa Fatima shared that child marriage is a potential factor in encouraging physical, emotional abuse as well as domestic violence as the girls who married in early ages are not fully aware of their basic rights and the strategies to meet the marital life keeping in view the joint family system in Pakistan.
Nazeefa said Article 25 (A) of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to education for every child between the ages of 5 to 16 so there is a dire need to increase the minimum age of marriages for girls from 16 to 18 years.
She stressed that the Punjab government should allocate more budgetary resources to facilitate the girls in completion of secondary education, which could be a good strategy to prevent child marriage.
She emphasised that the Punjab government must enact the comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of girls including the right to life, right to education, right to survival and development, right to leisure, right to freedom of expression, among other important rights.
Sobia Qadir appreciated the recent amendment made in The Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 by Punjab Assembly in result of which fine and punishment for perpetrators of child marriages were enhanced but the important issue, affecting the lives of adolescent girls, was to raise minimum age of girls for marriage from 16 to 18 years which still was not addressed by the Punjab government despite passage of an amendment.
Sobia Qadir emphasised that there is still a need to make child marriage a cognizable offence along with devising preventive as well as rehabilitation mechanisms by the government. She suggested that the government should launch a comprehensive campaign through schools education department and higher education department to sensitise the young girls on their basic human rights which will surely lead towards women empowerment in real terms.
Iftikhar Mubarak said that in 2009 United Nations Committee on Child Rights recommended the government of Pakistan after reviewing Pakistan Periodic Report to UNCRC, that Pakistan must remove the discrepancy in ages of both boys and girls, and age of marriage must be enhanced from 16 to 18 years for girls.
Mubarak said the Punjab government should enhance its focus on taking administrative and legislative actions to prevent girls and women from all forms of violence including sexual abuse, exploitation and domestic violence. He questioned that if Sindh Government can bring separate legislation to prohibit child marriages then why not the Punjab government brings a separate bill to address the issue.