Call to implement Child Marriage Restraint Act strictly

KARACHI – Lawyers’ community and civil society activists on Thursday spoke at length on the launch of the extensive review and analysis of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 in which they highlighted the pros and cons of the law, which if addressed, could cause huge positive impact on the society at large.

They said being a landmark legislation to end early marriages in Sindh, the law was still poorly implemented. They added lack of proper structures and sensitisation, poor resources and lack of serious efforts were the contributing factors vis-a-vis poor progress of the act at grassroots level.

This was discussed in a provincial dialogue attended by a number of CSOs representatives, lawyers, social activists, media persons, and community activist came from across the province on review and analysis of Sindh.

The programme was organised by the Sindh Community Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Trust Fund to end violence against women –UN Women. The SCF launched its review and analysis.

Speakers on the occasion included Karmat Ali of the PILER, human rights experts Iqbal Detho, social activist Zulfqar Halepoto , lawyer Tahir Malik of Legal Aid Forum, Javed Soz of SCF, Mahesh Kumar, a senior journalist, Shahnaz Sheedi of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan.

Speakers identified the gaps in the law saying the rule of business of the Act had been formulated and were duly put in place, yet, implementation of the law was still waiting. The government’s mechanism to implement the law was weaker leaving it is hard to deal with the cases relating to early marriages.

There is need to strengthen the implementation mechanism as highlighted in the recommendation of the review.  According to the Sindh Police data, only 51 cases have so far been registered under this law across the province. Police officials are not much aware about the laws in other areas/districts except the three targeted districts where the SCF and few NGOs have intervened.

Speakers were of the view that there was need to continuously support the required infrastructure to make such laws further effective. They said Child Protection Units (CPUs) played basic role in implementing the law but in many districts they were missing and in the districts where they had been established had poor resources and weaker role in implementing the law; and, that needed more resources and greater attention to be effective.

Speakers emphasised that the District Monitoring Committees (DMCs) had been notified under the law but they had attracted feeble response and remained ineffective to put that law in practice at the local level.

The speakers linked feudal mindset with the gender inequality and poor implementation of the law at local. These DMCs need added initial support to act as effective platforms to prevent early marriages.

They were of the view that Sindh government was active in passing such a good law but the implementation was not as intense as the government’s commitment to make the legislation. Sindh government was to allocate resources to promote awareness of the law at local level; but, four years had been passed yet the fact that so far only 51 cases were registered with the police showed that law was still not on the priority of the government to implement in letter and spirit.

They called for proper budget allocation to strengthen the required system and effective oversight.

Community activists, Amirzadi from Wahi Panhdi, Dadu district, and Sadhoomal from Jamo Kolhi village, Tando Mohammad Khan district, also shared their role in preventing early marriage cases through motivation and awareness. The community champions including Afshan, Amirzadi, Sadhoomal, Advocate Ayaz Rind, media person Mushtaq Tanwri, social activists Sajida Perveen and Anwer Maher were  awarded with shields for their efforts to work actively for gender equality and prevent early marriages in their regions.

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