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CRM condemns withdrawal of legislative bill related to girls’ marriage

By our correspondents
January 18, 2016


Child Right Movement (CRM), Pakistan, a coalition of more than 200 civil society organisations advocating for the protection and promotion of child rights across Pakistan, has strongly condemned the withdrawal of the legislative bill proposed to recommend harsher punishment for entering conjugal contracts with minors and increase the girls’ marriage age from 16 to 18 years.

CRM Pakistan’s National Coordinator, Noor Ul Islam, expressed in a press statement issued by CRM Pakistan National Secretariat that civil society of Pakistan has been striving against the discrimination and neglect of children and for the protection of child rights as enshrined in the Constitution as well as the multilateral agreements and protocols that Pakistan is a signatory to.

He added that Child Marriages Restraint Amendment Bill 2014 was proposed to improve the already enforced Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929. However, he further added, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has unfortunately rejected the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 after the CII dubbed it ‘anti-Islamic’ and ‘blasphemous’. Lawmakers in GB Legislative Assembly, he further added, had also blocked a Bill seeking ban on child marriages in the last month.

Being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Children (UNCRC) for the last 25 years, states the press statement, Pakistan significantly lacks any tangible evidence of the implementation of the Concluding Observations and Recommendations shared by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the last four Periodic Reports as well as the List of Issues shared by the CRC with the Government of Pakistan in October 2015.

It mentions that additionally, Pakistan has officially committed through South Asia Initiative to Eradicate Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) -- a SAARC apex body -- to counter child marriage and increase minimum age of marriage to 18 years. Finally, other civil society alliances such as Alliance against Child Marriage, EVAWG (Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls) alliance and NACG (National Action Coordination Group Pakistan) fully support CRM Pakistan’s position and have highlighted how child marriage affects girls’ health and impede societal development and prosperity of the country.

It is also important, noted the statement, that Islam should not be distorted and instrumentalised in order to violate children’s fundamental rights and satisfy vested interests; we demand the Pakistani government to fulfil its international, regional and national commitments to ending child marriage and increase the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls in the spirit of article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

CRM Pakistan, says the statement, is concerned in delays about various pending bills at the national and provincial levels including the National Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill, the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, the ICT Child Protection and Welfare Bill at the national level and demanded the passage of the Juvenile Justice System Bill 2015.

It appeals the federal and provincial assemblies to prioritise child rights related legislation and ensure an effective implementation of laws already in place, including the Article 25A of the Constitution, the ICT Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012 and recently passed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2015.

CRM Pakistan is a coalition of over 200 civil society organisations and experts working for the protection and promotion of child rights in Pakistan with a National Chapter, four Provincial Chapters and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Fata and GB chapters.