LAHORE - Representatives of civil society have urged authorities to take steps for increasing the minimum marriage age for girls from 16 to 18 years.

Children Advocacy Network (CAN Pakistan) arranged a session on “Recent Legislative Developments around Child Marriages in Punjab” at a local girls college on Tuesday to sensitize young girls about the issue of child marriages in Punjab.

CAN Pakistan’s Youth Officer Nazeefa Fatima shared that child marriage was a potential factor to raise physical, emotional abuse and domestic violence as the girls who got married in early ages were not fully aware about their basic rights and the strategies to meet the marital life. She said that article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to education for every child between the age of 5 to 16 so there was dire need to increase the minimum age of marriages for girls from 16 to 18 years. She stressed that Punjab Government should allocate more budgetary resources to facilitate the girls in completion of secondary education, which could be a good strategy to prevent child marriage. She emphasized that Punjab government must enact the comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of girls including the right to life, right to education, right to survival and development, right to leisure, right to freedom of expression etc.

Legal Officer Madadgar Sobia Qadir appreciated the recent amendment made in The Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 in result of which fine and punishment for perpetrators of were enhanced but the important issue, affecting the lives of adolescent girls, was to raise minimum age of girls for marriage from 16 to 18 years. She emphasized that there was still need to make the child marriage a cognizable offense along with devising preventive as well as rehabilitation mechanisms if government was seriously intended to address the issue. She also suggested launching a comprehensive campaign through schools education and higher education departments to sensitize the young girls on their basic human rights.

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator Plan International Iftikhar Mubarik urged the government to take administrative and legislative actions to prevent girls and women from all forms of violence including sexual abuse, exploitation and domestic violence.

He stressed that all stakeholders including media, academia, government and CSOs should be on same wave length to create awareness among masses for prevention of child marriages incidents.