PTI legislators reject child marriage bill

This act of the parliamentarians amounts to supporting bigotry and darkness said Valrie Khan, A child rights activist

By: Editor/Asim Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) received heavy criticism for rejecting a bill banning underage marriages.

This year May, the bill which was presented by Dr. Ramesh Kumar of PTI in National Assembly seeking minimum marriageable age in Pakistan at 18. The bill however drew uproar from the party’s own MNAs and those of the JUI-F and the Speaker National Assembly had to refer it to NA committee on Law & Justice.

The bill was rejected by voting in a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law & Justice held on August 21 when PTI MNA Riaz Fatyana was in the chair.

Child marriage is a human rights violation and hence Civil Society organizations in Pakistan making their efforts to press federal and provincial governments to pass legislation on the issue. Civil society of Pakistan has criticized the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) for rejecting a bill.

It is pertinent to mention here that the similar bill has already been passed by the Sindh Assembly in 2014 and PTI’s legislatures apparently having the stance of banning child marriages the bill has been rejected by its own party members in National Assembly of Pakistan.

Even within the federal cabinet Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, without caring for the opposition by two colleagues in the Cabinet argued in support of the bill and asked the chair to refer it to the committee concerned.

While expressing disappointment over rejection of a bill dealing with an important issue Chairperson of National Council on Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz said the members who opposed the bill needed to understand the sensitivity of the issue.

Valerie Khan, a French Pakistani children and women rights activist when asked to comment on NA standing committee’s rejection of the bill, said it was irresponsible, ill-informed, disappointed to say the least, for elected representatives who claim to protect the most vulnerable and support a new agenda which is development-oriented and shameful for the country.

This act of the parliamentarians in rejection of ban on child marriages amounts to supporting bigotry and darkness. More work is needed to spread enlightened Islamic Jurisprudence & hold our law makers accountable, said Valerie Khan.

According to Gulf News, Dr Kumar said in Wednesday’s Standing Committee meeting it was decided that the bill should be passed or rejected through voting.

“When the voting was about to begin, I noticed the PTI MNAs started leaving the committee one by one. I asked them not to leave as we needed votes for the approval of the bill in the standing committee but unfortunately they left and those opposing the bill were in majority,” said a disappointed Dr Kumar.

To stop this trend, Dr Kumar said the minimum age for marriage should be 18, Also a major cause of death of the girls between the ages of 15 and 18 is pregnancy, he said.

Iftikhar Mubarik Executive Director Search For Justice, a Non-Government Organization working for strengthening child rights and protection work in Pakistan said this is very strange that any child below the 18 years is not eligible for CNIC, Driving License and right to vote but the children can be married before that age, and the law is protecting this.

Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that all citizens are equal before law and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone. Is the discrepancy among boys and girls only with reference to marriage is not contradicting the constitution, asked Mubarik.