–Bill was sent to CII years ago where it remained untouched without any discussion
–Muslim countries that have declared 18 years as age of puberty include Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Morroco, Oman, UAE, and even Saudi Arabia
ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday passed a bill to amend the Child Marriage Restraint Bill, 1929, to set the minimum age to be able to marry as 18 years.
Senator Sherry Rehman, who presented the bill, was met with heated remarks by senators belonging to Islamist parties.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Senator Ghafoor Haidri raised an objection saying that fixing the age as 18 years for nikah is inconsonant with shariah law, therefore, the bill should be sent to Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for further discussion.
Similarly, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmad seconded Haideri’s suggestion to send the bill to CII, saying that it is against article 2-A of the constitution and against sharia. He suggested reducing the age of puberty from 18 to 15 instead.
Senator Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman also opposed the bill on the grounds that the committee did not invite ulema for consultation.
Senator Maulana Faiz Muhammad said that the Senate is not a proper forum to discuss matters like this.
State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that although the intent of the bill is noble, some issues require consultation as the country came into being in the name of Islam. “The Constitution binds us to make legislation in consonant with Islamic laws,” he said.
However, Senator Raza Rabbani apprised the house that the bill was earlier sent to the CII; however, it remained there for years without any discussion on the matter.
He said that the Sindh Assembly has already passed the same bill and it was not challenged or opposed at any forum and added that the age of puberty of girls in all other Islamic countries is 18 years.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Qadri said that a similar bill was sent to the CII in 2010 by former parliamentarians Marvi Memon and Atiya Anayatullah which was returned by the council with the observation that the age of puberty varies and cannot be fixed according to Fuqaha.
While urging the Senate chairman for voting on the bill, Sherry Rehman said that since the age of voting and eligibility for a national identity card (NIC) is 18, the age of puberty should also be fixed accordingly. “Muslim countries that have declared 18 years as the age of puberty include Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Morroco, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and even the Saudi Arabia,” she informed while adding that that the age of puberty in Algeria is 19.
“We are not promoting western values but trying to save innocent lives. As many as 21 per cent of marriages in our country are child marriages. One Pakistani woman dies every 20 minutes due to childbirth at a young age,” she said.
Leader of the house, Senator Shibli Faraz, favoured the bill saying he was part of the committee that deliberated on the bill and the CII never took a clear stance on the issue when their opinion was sought.
Senator Sassui Palijo added the girls in Pakistan are exploited in the name of religion. She said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the first one who protected girls and gave them rights in the time when they were buried alive and since the country was created in the name of Islam we should follow his example of granting our girls the safety and life they deserve.
Senator Farooq H Naik said that Islamic jurisprudence allows a man to marry four women but it must be kept in mind that according to the Muslim Family Ordinance, 1961, a man must seek the consent of his first wife before entering a second marriage and if he does not do so then he will be punished but the marriage will not be invalidated.
Senator Mushahid Ullah said that such legislation would be very effective to ensure discipline in society and curb the exploitation of women.
Senator Taj Roohani said that even from a medical point of view, the age of puberty is 18 years; however, a few girls reach puberty earlier because of good nutrition and genes.
Winding up the debate on the bill, the Senate chairman sought voting and passed the bill with the opposition of five votes.
The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which aims to “curb the menace of child marriage prevalent in the country and save women from exploitation”, underage marriage can lead to imprisonment of up to three years, a fine of at least Rs100,000 or both.