Pakistan needs to ban child marriage.


Last week, Pakistan’s Senate decided to observe the UN International Day of the Girl Child in an unusual way – voting down a bill that would have increased the age at which girls could get married from 16 to 18. The justification for rejection? Evidently, according to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, the proposed revision was “contrary to religious injunctions.”

According to the UN Children’s Fund, 3 percent of Pakistani girls under the age of 15 and 21% of females under the age of 18 are married. Child marriage frequently takes place in the nation’s most impoverished and disenfranchised populations, and it has terrible repercussions. While females take on household duties and guys labour hard to support families they are too young to have, children who marry find that their childhoods are cut short and that their schooling is abandoned. Children who get married early start having children too soon, and early pregnancies put girls at considerable health risks, including death. In comparison to women who marry later, married girls are more likely to experience domestic abuse, including marital rape.

Why then is Pakistan taking its time? A violation of Pakistan’s obligations under international law is caused by the existing law’s 16-year-old legal marriage age for females and 18-year-old legal marriage age for boys. Both of these laws violate Pakistan’s obligations under international law. However, even this regulation is rarely put into practise because Pakistani courts frequently interpret Sharia (Islamic law), which permits any female who has reached puberty to get married.

In an effort to make things better, some provincial governments have passed laws establishing stricter punishments for those who arrange or carry out child marriages as well as higher minimum marriage ages. But Pakistani courts continue to favour Sharia law.
The Pakistani government must outlaw child marriage and clarify the conflict between federal and provincial legislation and religious interpretations. Pakistani girls require equality, a solid education, and access to competent medical care. Their wives are not necessary. The Pakistani parliament once again let its female constituents down on International Day of the Girl.

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