SPARC launches campaign against child marriages | Pakistan Today

SPARC launches campaign against child marriages

KARACHI: Child marriages in Pakistan are a common occurrence with almost 58 percent prevalence in rural and 27 percent in urban areas, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has disclosed. Commenting on the occasion of a province-wide campaign launched by SPARC titled “Child Marriage: Unjust and Unlawful”, SPARC Sindh Manager Suhail Ahmed Abro said there was an urgent need to amend the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929.
A private bill has been submitted in the parliament in this regard, but, as usual, the movement on the bill is extremely slow. SPARC has launched the campaign simultaneously in nine districts – Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Sukkur, Khairpur, Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Larkana, Kambar Shahdadkot and Dadu – where the custom strongly prevails. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has organised seminars, walks, and press briefings in these districts.
More than 25 high-profile cases of child marriages have been reported by the media in these districts this year. In Pakistan, the applicable law that deals with the subject of child marriages was passed in 1929 titled Child Marriages Restraint Act. It dictated that marriage of minors was a criminal offence. For the purposes of the Act, ‘minor’ was defined as a person below the age of 18 years. However, ‘child’ was defined as a male of less than 18 years of age and a female of less than 16 years. The Act imposes a penalty of Rs 1,000 and imprisonment of one month in case of violation.
Abro said, “SPARC demands that the amendment be expedited, which calls for raising the age of the girl to 18 (a child, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is any person under the age of 18) same as that of the boy.” Substantive increase in the penalty to that of at least Rs 100,000 and immediate enforcement of the same must also be ensured. Poverty, illiteracy, social and cultural practices are factors cited for the prevalence of child marriages.
An early marriage leads to early conception, which ultimately affects the health of the teenage girl. Typically, enormous pressure to bear children is put on the child brides. “In developing countries, the leading cause of death for young girls between the ages of 15 and 18 is early pregnancy.”

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