The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Senate on Monday, the bill seeks to set the legal minimum age to marry at 18 in Pakistan.
Senator Sherry Rehman, while presenting the bill, quoted research by the United Nations Children’s Fund that over 21% of Pakistanis marry before the age of 18. She said that multiple Muslims countries had set the minimum age to marry at 18 including Oman, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.
She also shed light on the fatal health issues underage marriage posed to mothers, as early pregnancy would be fatal; she added: “One woman dies in childbirth every 20 minutes.”
Objections by JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami
Predictably, Senator Ghafoor Haideri of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) opposed the bill, he said that fatal pregnancy was due to dismal healthcare rather than age and from a religious point-of-view marriage was allowed after puberty in Islam.
He said that before discussing it in the Senate, the bill should be forwarded to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). Sherry replied by saying “We are not promoting western culture, this is wrong,” and that the bill, in legal terms, would view any person under 18 as a child and prohibited to marry.
Hadieri’s proposal was backed by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and said establishing an age limit to marry would be “against the shariah”.
Noorul Haq Qadri, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs said Islam didn’t have an age limit to marry and pointed out that a previous bill similar to this one had already been termed “against the shariah” by the CII. Senator Raza Rabbani of PPP countered that forwarding the bill to the CII would be “akin to sending it into cold storage”.
Meanwhile, Sherry said that the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights had backed the bill unanimously but Haideri raised an objection over this, stating his party had not been invited to join.
Passed in Senate
However, the Senate passed the bill and it will now be tabled at the National Assembly. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to “curb the menace of child marriage prevalent in the country and save women from exploitation”, and calls for punishments in case of underage marriage including up to three years in jail, a fine of at least Rs 100,000 or both.
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