The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill was rejected by the Senate Standing Committee on Interior this Wednesday. Senator Sehar Kamran had moved the bill to increase the minimum age for marriage of girls from 16 to 18. The reason behind the move was to stop girls as young as nine or ten from being married off.

Sehar Kamran was not present in the Senate when voting took place. What happens in such cases is that decision is deferred till the person who moved the bill can be present to defend his stance. However, members went on to take a vote. Since this particular bill is also related to religious injunctions, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is also asked for opinion. CII has not had a head since the last year, hence senators contacted religious personalities in their personal capacity and made the move of rejecting the bill - terming it as un-Islamic.

They argue that Islam allows the space for younger girls to be married off. What they are forgetting in the process is that several girls are married off at a very young age on the pretense of this interpretation of Islam. In our state, a person who is 16 years old is not considered an adult. Only when they are 18 are they issued a National Identity Card (NIC), driving license, and granted the right to vote. How can then a 16 year old child be married off?

Children as young as sixteen cannot be robbed off their innocence. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are protected; young girls in particular. Early marriages often result in sexual abuse. Indian Supreme Court recently gave the verdict that consummating the marriage with a child bride is rape. These are the sort of precedents which need to be taken here, while also keeping the moral values of the society intact.