Underage marriage has been a problem plaguing the sub-continent for centuries, but no significant progress has been made to right these wrongs since the birth of Pakistan as a nation-state. The only thing that establishes some fragment of illegality is the Child Marriages Restraint Act (CMRA) of 1929, which sets the legal age of marriage at 16 and 18 for women and men respectively. Whether 16 is old enough for marriage is another debate entirely, but even the age of 16 is considered too old and little girls are made brides at ages starting from 10 years old. Underage marriage remains one of the most silent violations of human rights in the world, and yet it is one of the most absurd violation a society can make. 

The harms of child marriages are uncountable, and a lot of them are obvious. These children never really experience what it is to be a child, and are forced to hold out the duties of a wife at an age where they should be in school. They never get a chance at a prosperous life because they never get an education, they don’t get to see the world from the eyes of a child but have to look at it from behind a burqa. 

In 2014, the Sindh Assembly proposed a bill increasing the minimum age for marriage to 18 for girls as well. Furthermore, it called for harsher punishments for offenders in these cases, increasing the fine to Rs300,000, and setting jail time to a possible maximum of two years. However, this was struck down by the Pakistan Muslim League in the National Assembly. 

A similar Bill was issued in Punjab for harsher punishments, without raising the minimum age but it was also struck down. The major source of defiance for these bills is the Council of Islamic Ideology, which is a council of Islamic Scholars that review laws according to the Sharia, and decide whether they are in line with religion or not. 

The fact remains, that these children do not even know why this is being done to them, and they consider this destruction of their lives a normality. We, as a society, need to stand up against this terrible violation of human rights, and protect these children form a life of misery. 

ARHAM AZEEM,  

Lahore, December 29.