ISLAMABAD: Every year, 21 percent girls in Pakistan under the age of 18 become child brides instead of getting quality education and health facilities.
This observation was made at a conference on the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2022, where speakers expressed concern that a country like Pakistan had the sixth highest number of child brides in the world which is close to 1.9 million.
This meeting was arranged by the National Commission on the Status of Women with the help of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Different stakeholders and speakers were invited for their input on the subject including from the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Law and Justice, Women Parliamentary Caucus, Legal Aid and Justice Authority, National Commission for the Rights of the Child as well as representatives from the local government.
The proposed bill would introduce some necessary amendments in the prevailing Child Marriage RestraintAct, 1929, as child marriage was one of the pressing human rights and women`s rights issues in Pakistan.
Deliberating over the issue, speale ers expressed that the bill was the need of the hour as it aims to enforce the constitutional rights of children.
Article 25(2) of the Constitution ensures that the state may make special provision for the protection of children.
Furthermore, Pakistan had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and is under an obligation to enforce the provision of UNCRC. This bill would also strengthen efforts to implement the UNCRC.
Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar also recommended inserting some provisions to this bill regarding pre-marriage thalassemia test of intending spouses for the prevention of thalassemia in the country.
She said that the test reports must be annexed with the nikkah nama (marriage documents), given there was a rise of 6,000-8, 000 thalassemia patients annually in Pakistan, where the number of blood donors was quite less compared to the needof present patients.
In his remarks, the Minister for Human Rights Riaz Hussain Pirzada said that child marriage in Pakistan was deeply rooted in poverty with devastating effects on girls.
`Child brides in Pakistan are at an elevated risk of sexual and physical abuse, reproductive health complications, and other adverse physiological and social outcomes,` he said, adding that it was imperative to have awareness in masses on the issue particularly in areas where the ratio of child marriage was high.
`People should be told that attaining marriageable age is the basic right for both contracting partners for their better physical and mental health and most importantly for bearing a healthy next generation,` he said. He committed support in the parliament for this bill.
The minister congratulated chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women Nilofar Bakhtiar for taking all important stakeholders on board. He observed that this was a challenging issue and the bill needed fresh energy, support and debate for its passage and enactment in the country.