There is more than one welcome initiative in process to review laws that impact girls and women in far-reaching ways. Most recently, the parliamentary speaker referred a bill seeking to increase the penalty for underage marriages to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs. However with a blatant backlash from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), one wonders why these decisions have to be approved by such regressive bodies and why they are taken so seriously that they can down to drown the voice of the parliament.

KishwarZehra of the MQM, tabled the bill to amend the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, seeking increased punishments for the offence of child marriage- the sentence of those found guilty from one month to three years, and raising the fine imposed from Rs 1,000 to Rs 300,00 Even though Minister for Religious Affairs SardarYousuf did not oppose the bill, he suggested that it be sent to the committee. With similar amendments, such as the one moved by MarviMemon earlier turned down by the CII there is no use of sending the bill to them to die a quick death. The minister argued that under the Constitution, no laws repugnant to the Holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet could be enacted; therefore the CII has the right to review the bill. Islam had freed people from the pulpit and made religion a personal and spiritual matter, yet, centuries on the man at the pulpit is more in power than society itself.

The legal age of maturity in Pakistan is 18. Why should marriage, navigating the many complexities of which requires not only physical maturity but also and far more importantly, mental maturity, be any different? The malicious custom of child marriage, still widely prevalent in many parts of the country, robs girls of their childhood and deprives them of opportunities to access education and gainful employment. It should be clear that bodies like the CII, that are not binding on parliament, but are treated as the guiding principles around which policy is generally framed. They should not be given the power to resist such an affirmative amendment.