Pakistani activists want anti-chid bride bill approved
by Shafique Khokhar

The bill is stuck in Parliament due to parliamentarians and government members who believe it is against Islam. In Pakistan every 20 minutes a woman dies due to complications related to maternity, whilst more than a thousand girls are abducted every year and forced to convert and marry much older men.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – A well-known rights group is calling on the government to approve the law against child marriages as soon as possible.

After adoption in the Senate, the bill is stuck in the National Assembly (lower house) due to the opposition of some of its members as well as government ministers who claim the draft law violates Sharia and is un-Islamic.

The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2019 raises the legal age to marry at age 18, and imposes stricter penalties and fines on anyone who abducts non-Muslim women and girls to Islam, converts them against their will, and force them to marry much older Muslim men.

Hailed around the world as a victory for child rights, the bill is currently held up in Parliament.

According to Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), the number of girls deprived of their childhood and the possibility of studying is staggering. About 21 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before age of 18 and 3 per cent are married before the age of 15. Pakistan has the sixth highest number of child brides in the world, 1,909,000.

For HRFP president Naveed Walter, “Pakistan has committed itself to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals [objective] which seeks to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations.” 

HRFP as well as other civil society groups want to see an end to kidnappings, forced conversions and forced marriages of girls. All Pakistani girls must have a chance to pursue a career without the obstacle of their guardians and be the authors of change in society for a truly democratic, tolerant and prosperous Pakistan. The life and future of the new generations must not be ruined.