Child marriages should be discouraged: CII

Sindh is the only province in Pakistan that has passed a law which categorically forbids child marriages

Benazir Shah
File photo 

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has asked the government to launch an awareness campaign to end child marriages in Pakistan.

“Under-age marriages are wrong and should be discouraged,” Dr Qibla Ayaz, the chairman of CII, told, “They create issues at home and in the society, as stated in a book by one of the greatest Islamic scholar the late Mufti Muhammad Shafi.”

The Council, he added, strongly suggests that the government launch a wide-scale awareness campaign against the practice of taking child brides with the help of religious clerics and the media. The recommendations were sent earlier this year to the ministry of law.

The debate on child, early and forced marriages came to the fore again this week in Pakistan after two allegedly minor girls, Raveena and Reena, were taken from Sindh to the Punjab province and married off.

Child marriage is defined by the UNICEF as under the age of 18 years.

Sindh is the only province in Pakistan that has passed a law which categorically forbids the practice and sets the minimum legal age of marriage for boys and girls at 18.

“The legislation is there in Sindh and yet we [at the CII] receive reports of its violation every day. The law is not being implemented,” Dr Ayaz said, ”Passing a law before raising awareness will create tension.”

Pakistan came close to outlawing child marriages in 2017, when a private member bill, tabled in the parliament, proposed increasing the age for girls to marry from 16 to 18 years. However, a standing committee, headed by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Rehman Malik, struck down the bill and dubbed it un-Islamic. The bill was then referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology.

While the Council has forwarded its suggestions, the chairman admits that they have not set a minimum age for marriage. “That should be determined by the national and provincial assemblies.”

Child marriages are common in Pakistan. According to a UNICEF estimate, 21 per cent of girls are married before age 18.

In the case of Raveena and Reena, their family also alleges that the sisters were abducted and then forced to convert to Islam. On the practice of forced conversion, Dr Ayaz says “it is very clearly stated in the Sharia laws that conversion by force is not allowed.”