Know Your Rights: Child Marriage in the Pakistani Law

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This article is written by Jawaria A. Kashif, Advocate High Court, Lahore. You can get in touch with her on email here, and her Facebook page here.

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Child Marriages in the light of Islam and Pakistani Law

Child brides face huge challenges from being married as children. They become isolated and they frequently feel discouraged and deprived of their fundamental rights to health education and safety. What does Islam and the Pakistani Law say about this societal problem? Read on to find more.

 

Source: ejournal41

According to Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929;

”Child” means a person who, if a male, is under eighteen[18] years of age, and if a female, is under sixteen[16] years of age; & “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child.”

More factors contributing to this rising rate of child marriages are social and gender inequality, a desire to control women’s sexuality and protect family honor, economic hardship and lack of awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage are common driving factors.

It is estimated that 24% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.

“It is estimated that 24% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.”

In Pakistan, there are various causes of early or child marriages. Child marriage is connected to a number of reasons, including tradition, culture, and customary practices. It sometimes involves the transfer of money, settlement of debts or exchange of daughters (Vani/Swara or Watta Satta) sanctioned by a Jirga or Panchayat (council of elders from the community).

Another important cause of the child marriage is ineffective and non-responsive birth registration system. The birth registration for children, especially girls is never prioritized, which gives room for manipulation of the age of the child/girls at the time of marriage. In addition, there are no central, independent and strong child rights bodies that could monitor child rights violations including the issue of child marriages.

Drawbacks of Early Marriage for Girls:

When girls are married in their childhood, they are either unable or not allowed to continue with their education. Additionally, girls who are married before adulthood are at greater risk of health problems. Underage pregnancies are severely detrimental to health, often leading to obstetric fistulas and an increased risk of death for both the mother and the child. As a result, child brides face huge challenges from being married as children. They become isolated and they frequently feel discouraged and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. A child bride will have problems giving birth and raising children, as her knowledge of child care is limited or even no knowledge at all.

Islam Prohibits Forced Marriages:

Forced marriages are strictly forbidden in Islam, as Islamic marriages are contracts between two consenting parties. It has been quoted from Hazrat Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam),

“The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained.”

In addition,Hazrat Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) gave women the power to annul their marriages if it was found that they had been married against their consent.

“When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be annulled.”

Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and said that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) gave her the right to repudiate the marriage.

Pakistani Law Controls Child Marriage:

Under the Punjab Marriage Restraint Act, any adult who marries a child (a boy under 18 years and a girl under 16 years of age), can be punished with imprisonment of up to 6 months and a fine of Rs. 50,000. The same punishment will apply to a Nikah Registrar who conducts a marriage between two children, or a marriage of an adult with a child.

Additionally, parents or guardians of either party will be punished if they facilitate or organize the marriage of a minor (anyone under the age of 18) or a child. Parents and/or guardians will be punished with imprisonment of up to 6 months and fine of Rs. 50,000. Someone who wishes to report a case of child marriage will need to submit a complaint to the Union Council. The Chairman Union Council will then report the case to the Family Court, which will punish the accused person according to the penalties mentioned above.

The Court can forbid any party from facilitating or organizing a child marriage through an Injunction. An injection is a Court Order which prevents a child marriage and it is applicable to the groom, parents or guardians, Nikah Registrars and any other person involved. Violation of an injunction is punishable with imprisonment of up to 3 months and fine of Rs.1000.

Parents, Alert!

There is a huge responsibility of parents towards their children. A child whether it is a boy or girl, needs due attention and care from parents. Every child has right of education too. Parents must provide for the material and spiritual welfare of their children. It is also the duty of the parents that they provide proper education to their children before marrying them. They must inspire their children by their own exemplary life and must never neglect to correct their faults.

It is not fair that if the parents are poor and cannot afford the expenses of education or other basic needs and due to poverty, they marry their child to take their burden off from their shoulders. It is a fact that poor parents consider their daughters as a burden and they marry them at an early age to minimize the number of members in a family. Parents especially mothers must discourage their child marriage.

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This article is written by Jawaria A. Kashif, Advocate High Court, Lahore. You can get in touch with her on email here, and her Facebook page here.

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