PESHAWAR, Dec 31 (APP): The Provincial Alliance to End, Early Child and Forced Marriages on Tuesday urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government to take steps for prohibiting child marriage by setting 18 years as minimum age for both male and female for the purpose.
The KP cabinet should approve the draft legislation in that regard so that it could be presented in the provincial assembly, the Alliance said in a press release.
It cited the example of Saudi Arabia, which had prohibited marriage of persons under 18 years, which could be emulated.
The Alliance said Pakistan’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality included ending harmful practices such as child and forced marriage under Target 5.3.
The country was also a state party to the legally binding Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which “defines a child as anyone under the age of 18″ and Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Allaince’s Coordinator Qamar Naseem, who is also Co-chair of the National Action Coordination Group (NACG), in a statement, said, “The Government of Pakistan should develop well-resourced national and provincial action plans to end child marriage, invest in programmes that empower girls, and develop programmes that equip girls with skills and knowledge to determine their own future”.
He said the government must establish laws and policies that set 18 as the minimum age for marriage remove legal loopholes – related to parental consent or customary laws and protect women and girls’ rights.
Taimur Kamal Coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network said to end child marriages, the government and the civil society must join hands to provide adequate health, education, justice and other services, to provide girls and their families with alternatives child marriage and implement support programs that empower girls at risk or who are currently in child marriages.
Sana Ahmad, Provincial Coordinator of the Ujala Network, said, “The issue of child marriages in Pakistan is more cultural than religious”.
“Religion should prevail over culture and not culture over religion. That is why most Islamic countries have now prescribed 18 as the age of marriage and have made child marriage illegal,” she added.
Religious leader Mufti Jamil said, “There is nothing Islamic about child marriages; if anything it is un-Islamic.
It is well-known that marriage is a contract in Islam and the Quran calls it a ‘strong covenant’ (agreement).
“It does not require a lot of argument to conclude that such a covenant cannot be entered into by children of the age of eight when a child does not even understand what a covenant is.”