75% brides were marked between 16 to 18 years of age, according to study
A diagnostic study of Punjab titled 'Protecting Women’s Marriage Rights in Pakistan' found 60% of nikahnamas, registeredfrom 2016 to 2022, as incomplete.
The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and Musawi,an independent research organisation, expressed concern over the high percentage while discussing the study's findings in an inter-provincial working group meeting on protecting women's marriage rights.
This meeting, was the third in a series of working groups, to discuss the provincial differences in legislation and implementation framework regarding women’s marriage rights across Pakistan.
According to the study, the bride’s CNIC number was missing in 48% of the total nikah contracts out of which 75% brides were marked between the ages of 16 to 18 years. Only 8% nikahnamas contained the right of monthly allowance, 39% had nan nafqah/haq maher documentation column crossed out or left blank.
In addition, 51% of the nikah contracts did not contain any special conditions, only 24% of nikahcontracts mentioned date of registration of the nikahnama, while the bride's age was mentioned in only 6% nikah contracts.
NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha highlighted the importance of clarity of laws on the definition of child.
“There are different laws and policies such as Article 11-3 and Article 25A of the Constitution which give a differing interpretation of the age of the child. There should be uniformity and consensus in federal and provincial laws,” she said emphasising the importance of focusing on the nikahnama as a legal document to ensure protection of women's marriage rights.
CEO Musawi Fatima Yasmin Bokhari stressed the need to build a multi-stakeholder collaboration for advocacy on marriage rights on an inter-provincial platform to share best practices and enable cross-learning from differing provincial legal frameworks, processes and practices.
NCHR Punjab Member Nadeem Ashraf expressed his vision of creating systemic improvement and the possibility of a uniform policy between all provinces and ICT regarding marriage rights to ensure the mutual benefit of every province with future and existing laws.
Participants of the working group included members from provincial assembly, civil society, government officials and other relevant stakeholders.
Attendees of the meeting stressed the need for uniform marriage laws rather than relying on different laws across provinces. They also urged the importance of implementation of the existing marriage rights-related laws and policies. The need to raise awareness about rights mentioned within the nikahnamacontract was also emphasised.