By Amir Murtaza , Pakistan Correspondent for Safe World. September 2014.
Popularization of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 is Necessary
Violence against children, both male and female, is widely prevalent in the present world and Pakistan is no exception.
Child marriages have been the most severe violation of basic human and child rights. It is, however, very encouraging that the legislators of the provincial Sindh Assembly have taken an important step [in April 2014] and passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, declaring marriage below the age of 18 punishable by law.
This was stated during a series of awareness-raising sessions on the issue of Child Marriage the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 in local communities in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas. These awareness-raising programs were organized by the Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO). Advocate Ashraf Suleiman, Ms. Mumtaz, Mr. Abdul Qadir Bullo, and Mr. Amir Murtaza were prominent among the speakers, during the awareness-raising programs.
It is pertinent to note that Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO) has been working closely with the Department of Women Development, Government of Sindh, on the popularization of Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013.
The Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 defines that child means a person, male or female, who is under 18 years of age. Additionally, child marriage means a marriage to which either of the contracting party is a child.
It was added that the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 under “Punishment for solemnizing a child marriage” stated that,
“Whoever performs, conducts, directs, brings about or in any way facilitates any child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years but shall not be less than two years and shall also be liable to fine”.
Additionally, the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 under “Punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage” stated that,
“Where a parent or guardian or any other person in any capacity, lawful or unlawful, does any act to promote the child marriage or permits it to be solemnized, or fails to prevent it negligently, from being solemnized, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years but shall not be less than two years and shall also be liable to fine”.
It was also added that as per Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years”. It was stated that, therefore, marriage below 18 years of age violates their basic rights as a child as well as a human being.
It was also observed child marriage is a flagrant violation of basic human rights; however, despite widespread condemnation it has been confirmed that child brides are a real problem in Pakistan.
It was informed that Pakistan has signed and ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Article 16 of CEDAW mentions:
1. States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
- a. the same right to enter into marriage;
- b. the same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
- c. the same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO) strongly believes that enactment of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 is an extremely important step in eliminating the practice of child marriage from the society. However, popularization of the legislation in every nook and corner of the Sindh province is very necessary.
Furthermore, government, with the support of NGOs, should take concrete actions for the strict and fuller implementation of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013.
About the Author: Amir Murtaza is a senior researcher, analyst and writer on social development issues, especially pertaining to women, youth, and children. He is Executive Director of Social Research & Development Organization (SRCO) - a member of the Alliance for a Safe World.