Tuesday August 16, 2022

Making laws work

By Editorial Board
December 09, 2021

Even the best laws are pointless if they are not implemented. Sindh is the only province in the country to have the Child Marriages Restraint Act passed in 2013. Yet despite this, a growth in the number of child marriages has been noted both during the period from 2014 to 2018 and from 2018 to 2019. In fact, from 2018 to 2019 around 22 percent of women interviewed reported being married before the age of 18 and 7.5 percent before the age of 15. It is then obvious that laws alone cannot solve problems. Much wider solutions are required. Since child marriage is so closely linked to maternal mortality, infant mortality and damage to the health of the young mother, reproductive health should go alongside laws, such as the restraint on child marriages. In addition, we need not only greater awareness, but also more empowerment for women and more penalties for parents or clerics who carry out these marriages. A far wider system of uplifting people from poverty and providing education is required as part of a wider measure to deal with problems, such as child marriages.

Indeed, child marriages occur in an environment where violence against women is increasingly common. On Sunday, three women were reported killed in the Rahim Yar Khan district where two brothers opened fire on their mother and four sisters after accusing them of having illicit relations with people in the area. Such incidents suggest the manner in which people look at women as property rather than as individual agents able to make their own decisions, notably in cases where they are adults. In this environment, laws like the Child Marriages Restraint Act, for all the excellent features contained within it, are harder to enforce. This is something that must be understood. It is also important that laws such as these are enforced across the country rather than in one province alone. Solving problems at a wider level and dealing with issues such as class inequity, malnutrition, poverty, discrimination against labour, and other issues as a whole would help women obtain their rights and help society find ways to end child marriages and the suffering they bring upon so many young girls and women.