islamabad - A parliamentary committee has rejected a proposed legislation for enhancing the girls’ marriage age from 16 to 18 years.

The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was presented before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony but majority of the committee members opposed the bill outright yesterday before being laid in the parliament for approval.

The bill moved by MNA Marvi Memon in the National Assembly in 2014 was referred to the committee for discussion. The bill had also proposed to enhance punishments/fine in the present act on the subject arguing that early marriage leads to early conception, which ultimately affects the health of the teenage girls. Enormous pressure to bear children is put on young girls.

Moreover, early pregnancy is the leading cause of death for young girls between the age of 15 and 18 in developing countries.

The meeting was told yesterday that the Council of Islamic Ideology, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Capital Administration and Development Division did not agree to the provisions of the bill and they showed reservations on the marriage age of girls.

The permissible age limit for marriage under the current laws for boys is 18 years while the same for girls is 16 years.

Only the mover of the bill Marvi Memon, Kishwar Zehra and MNAs from minority had voted in favour of the bill.

If 16-year-old girls are not eligible for voting, driving and acquiring national identity cards, how they can be eligible to take up the responsibilities of a married life, remarked MNA Kishwer Zehra.

The bill was initially introduced by former MNA Dr Atia Inayatullah in 2009 but it was lapsed due to dissolution of the national assembly. The proposed draft of the bill had suggested amendments in the current laws in Islamabad Capital Territory as the Parliament can only legislate on the subject at the federal level after devolution.

Early marriage is a widespread phenomenon in Pakistan. According to United Nation’s Children Fund, nearly 37 percent of Pakistani women get married before reaching the age of 18 years, mostly in South Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Civil society organisations have long been campaigning to end the discrimination and want same legal age for marriage both for boys and girls.

The Sindh Assembly was the first legislature in the country to pass a bill that declared marriage below the age of 18 punishable by law.