KARACHI - The Sindh Assembly on Monday adopted ‘Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2013’ into law unanimously and declared the marriage below age of 18 for both genders as punishable with three years imprisonment.

The lawmakers from the treasury and opposition benches termed the passage of bill as a historical achievement of the provincial assembly. The Sindh has taken lead on other provinces by banning the child marriage.

After completing the agenda listed in the order of the day, Provincial Minister for Women Development and Social Welfare Departments, Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani presented the report of Special Committee on the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Bill 2013 and Child Marriages Prohibition Bill 2013 of Sharmila Farooqui, which were both tabled in the House on September 25, 2013.

The House committee, after lengthy deliberations of over seven months, finally reached on consensus and drafted these in the form of ‘Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Bill 2013’, which was presented in House on Monday. The assembly also repealed the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 which had allowed marriage in the age of 16 years.

Enhancing the age of marriage from 16 years to 18, the Sindh Assembly also declared the marriage below this age as a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence punishable by law with three years imprisonment. The state or any person can file application with the Judicial Magistrate of First Class against child marriage.

Special Assistant for Culture Department, Sharmila Farooqui, who was also the mover of the bill, said today was the historical day of the Sindh Assembly which had adopted legislation against the social evil. She emphasised on the lawmakers to ensure implementation on the child marriages restraint bill in their constituencies.

Sharmila said Child Marriages Act 1929 had been repealed, which carried punishment of fine of only Rs1,000 against this evil, but the House committee had not only enhanced the age of marriage to 18 years but also enhanced the fine to Rs45,000, besides imprisonment of three years. Senior Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the Sindh Assembly had a distinction from other provincial legislatures as it always tool lead in framing laws against social evils.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said his department had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), which works on women, environment and other issues with communities. The MoU aimed at getting the input of the civil society organisations and communities to ensure pro-people legislation in Sindh Assembly. He said whoever brings private bills on social issues, the government will accept and make the law through due process of discussion.

MQM’s parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed applauded the government, especially the female lawmakers, for their efforts to make the pro-women laws. He emphasised on the government to advertise the law in public in local language as well as create awareness in the masses and the law enforcement agencies to ensure implementation on the historical law.

Sindh Women Development Minister Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani applauded the women lawmakers as well as male members of assembly and civil society organisations for their input and support in this regard. She announced that her department will start awareness campaign to inform the masses about the punishment against the child marriages so that this menace could be eradicated.

Mir Nadir Magsi, a tribal chief, said child marriages still prevail in Sindh as a number of children were being married off daily. He said 80 percent cases of child marriages are not reported, though marriages of children between the age of 12 and 14 are common in Sindh. He underlined the need of new law’s implementation in letter and spirit.

Magsi said punishment to culprits would lead to curbing the menace. He also advised the government to make advertisements for public awareness, especially for those living in rural areas. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said his department would incorporate important points of the child marriages restraint law in each government advertisement for three months.

PTI’s Samar Ali Khan advised the education department to spread awareness of the law in the schools so the parents can get information through their children as well. PTI’s Dr Seema Zia also applauded the government for pro-people legislation. PML-N’s Irfanullah Marwat said that male members had also equally contributed in passing of this law. PML-F’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, PML-N’s Sorath Thebo, MQM’s Naila Munir and Rana Ansar also shared their views in favour of the law.