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Inhibiting growth -Education, awareness key to discouraging child marriages

Jan 29, 2015

Published: January 29, 2015

The conference was jointly organised by DCHD, Save the Children and National Commission on the Status of Women.

: MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS ISLAMABAD: Child marriage is not only criminal but also hazardous for the well-being of any child and hampers their growth and personal development. It greatly affects their prospects of education, employment and leading a healthy lifestyle. Following the 18th Amendment, provincial governments are still in the process of getting legislation implemented on the issue. While the Sindh Assembly has successfully implemented a bill against child marriage, Punjab Assembly has passed one and their examples should serve as impetus for the other provinces. These were some of the ideas discussed at the National Conference on Child Marriages in Pakistan: Challenges and Strategies, at a local hotel on Wednesday. The conference was jointly organised by Democratic Commission on Human Development (DCHD), Save the Children and National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW).

DCHD Project Coordinator Arshad Mehmood presented an overview of the state of child marriages in the country. He underscored bringing all key stakeholders on board to develop common understanding of issues involved while identifying challenges and designing awareness and advocacy strategies for the prevention of child marriage in the country. Dr AH Nayyar, council member of CDHD, outlined the social attitudes and clerical mindset that discourage girls from pursuing education, limiting them to their homes. He said it was alarming that the Council of Islamic Ideology did not condemn child marriage and explained that this was posing as a major challenge to improve the prevailing situation. He added that child marriage also violates Article 25-A of the Constitution which states that education is a fundamental right of every child aged five to 16. Factors such as societal norms, forces that pride themselves over attacking girls’ schools and shooting them in the head as well as social attitudes and misguided religious beliefs are to blame for perpetuating the menace, he added.

NCSW chairperson Khawar Mumtaz moderated a session on legislation, policies and programmes. Speaking about the adverse effects of child marriage, she said it limited the mental growth, potential, aspirations and health of girls in particular and children in general.

Fauzia Viqar, chairperson of provincial commission on the status of women in Punjab, underscored follow-up on active advocacy or expediting procedures that aid the process. She spoke about monitoring the implementation of laws. “It is important to report incidents and collect statistics to fight the issue,” she said.

Former justice Mehta Kailash Nath Koli recalled the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, saying it was a non-cognisable and virtually redundant law. He said Parsis have standarised the marriage age at 21 years while the Christian Marriage Act from 1872 allows individuals to marry at the age of 18 years, however there is no impediment in the performance of marriage. He stressed that education can help lower the maternal mortality rate. Civil society representatives from different provinces spoke about alliances against child marriage addressing the issue in their respective areas. They observed that while legislation is important, implementation is key.

Furthermore, they said that education can play an important role in sensitising children about their rights and enabling them to participate and resist the menace which they dubbed as complex and multidimensional. Moreover, they also called for building consensus, taking religious scholars on board and improving coordination among various stakeholders. Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2015.

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