To mark International Day of the Girl Child 2014, UNFPA, Bedari and Sujag Sansar jointly organized a “Policy Dialogue with Parliamentarians on the early/forced/child marriage bill in Punjab” on 24 October, 2014 in Lahore. Distinguished Parliamentarians from Sindh were also there to discuss their experience of passing the Child Marriage Act in Sindh with their counterparts in Punjab.
In many parts of Pakistan social customs and traditions pressurize parents to marry their girls early with negative consequences for their education, health and life According to UNFPA, globally every year 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth. Of these 7.3 million births, 2 million are to girls 14 or younger, who suffer the gravest long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy, including high rates of maternal death and obstetric fistula. Setting 18 as a minimum marriage age is the first step in protecting young girls and society from the negative consequences of early marriage.
The policy dialogue heard how the Social Welfare Department, Government of Punjab in collaboration with Bedari and UNFPA had drafted the Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2013 through a comprehensive consultative process in the Province of the Punjab. It also heard about the Sindh Child Marriage Act 2013 which prohibits marriage under 18 years. That Act makes it mandatory for anyone registering a Nikah to have an identity card (CNIC) and imposes three years imprisonment and a fine of two hundred thousand rupees on anyone solemnizing a child marriage.
At the dialogue, Ms. Rubina Qaimkhani, Minister Women Development, Social welfare and Special Education, Government of Sindh shared her experiences of moving the Child Marriage Act in Sindh. She stressed the importance of having strong legislation, awareness raising and full implementation of the law to curb child marriage. Begum Zakia Shahnawz, Minister Population Welfare, Government of Punjab chairing the discussion, expressed her full support for adopting The Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2013 in Punjab. She said that girls should be able to stay in school, have children later and use their talents for the development of Pakistan. She stressed that every girl, no matter where she is born, should have a chance to reach her potential. Honorable members of the Punjab Women Parliamentary Caucus and Punjab Young Parliamentary Caucus actively contributed to discussions and expressed their commitment to enact law to deter early marriage in Punjab.
Ms. Ann Keeling, Representative UNFPA said “A girl who marries early is likely to have children when she is herself still a child and is likely to remain uneducated. Delaying marriage will give Pakistan a generation of healthy and more educated mothers who will raise a generation of healthier, more educated children. This is good for girls, good for families and good for Pakistan.”
The event received wide coverage in the national media. Following are some of the links to media coverage:
- Call for action against child marriages (The Nation)
- Traditions and social customs behind the practice of early marriage says PA members (Pakistan Herald)
- Child Rights: ‘Social customs behind early marriages’ (The Express Tribune)