Marriageable age should be 18 for girls too: seminar


— PTI lawmaker assures support, submits resolution in Punjab Assembly

LAHORE: A large number of girls associated with Search for Justice, Pakistan Girl Guides Association and Child Rights Movement Punjab on Thursday urged parliamentarians to play their role in raising the minimum age of girls for marriage from 16 to 18 years in Punjab by amending the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2015.

The demand was made during an interactive dialogue with parliamentarians, held in connection with the International Day of the Girl Child at a local hotel.

Child Rights Movement Punjab Coordinator Rashida Qureshi, at the occasion, said the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child and recognise girls’ rights as well as the challenges they face around the world.

“Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during their formative years, but also as they grow into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world; both as empowered girls of today and as workers of tomorrow,” she said.

Rashida added that an investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upheld their rights today and promised a more equitable and prosperous future for them as mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads and political leaders.

A participant, Mahroosh, urged parliamentarians to look into the matter of increasing the minimum age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18 years as the current age was a clear form of gender-based discrimination. She added that the UN Committee on the Rights of Child, in its concluding observations in 2009 and 2016, had also recommended Pakistan to remove discrepancies between the marriageable ages of both boys and girls.

Another adolescent girl, Afrozish, urged the effective implementation of Article 25-A of the constitution, which guaranteed free and compulsory education to every child between the ages of five and sixteen. “If a girl is married off at an earlier age, it should be considered as a clear violation of the constitution,” she said.

A child rights defender, 14-year-old Shafaq, presented a charter of demands to the parliamentarians and asked them to expedite the process to address the menace of child marriages through legal amendments and ensure an increase in the marriageable age for girls.

She added that child marriages directly contributed to the increasing incidents of domestic and gender-based violence, and in her charter of demands, Shafaq particularly mentioned Pakistan’s commitment showed during Universal Periodic Review by Human Rights Council in 2017, wherein the country accepted a recommendation made by Bahrain seeking work on raising the age of marriage for girls to 18 years.

“This commitment made at a global forum requires serious actions and will also contribute in achieving Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3 that seeks the elimination of all harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages,” she said and urged the lawmakers to convey these suggestions to the Punjab chief minister.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Musarrat Jamshed Cheema fully endorsed the demands made by different groups of girls and, in this regard, submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly to draw the attention of lawmakers towards the issue soon after the seminar.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary Rukhsana Naveed, at the occasion, also assured her full support to the girls and said that she would take up the issue in the National Assembly. “There is nothing more important than saving the lives of our daughters and to protect their fundamental rights,” she said.

MPA Sadia Sohail Rana, Sumaira Bukhari, Raheela Khadim Hussain also supported the girls’ demands and pledged to address the issue of child marriage. They also proposed to launch a mass media campaign to aware the masses of the harmful effects of child marriage on a girl child’s life.