Bill proposed for increasing minimum age for girl marriage

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LAHORE: The Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB) has proposed the Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2024-25 to the Punjab government.

The bill suggests increasing the minimum age for girls to marry to 18 years.

CPWB Chairperson Sarah Ahmad has written to Punjab Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal, emphasizing the urgent need to address the harmful practice of child marriage. She cited the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey 2017-18, which revealed that 18pc of women aged between 20 to 24 in Punjab were married off before the age of 18 and 2pc were married before the age of 15.

As a member provincial assembly (MPA) and CPWB chairperson, Sarah Ahmad is seeking the support of the home department for the crucial legislative initiative.

The Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Bill, 2024 is an updated version of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. It has been crafted to protect the health, safety and well-being of young girls affected by child marriage in the province.

The bill aligns with the 18th Amendment and is contextualized to Punjab.

It aims to protect the rights and well-being of children, especially girls, ensuring that they can live, survive, develop and thrive in a family environment free of discrimination and violence.

Ms Ahmad has requested the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Bill, 2024 to be tabled in the Provincial Assembly at the earliest, setting a precedent to promote child welfare, rights equality and public health.

The bill, available with Dawn, states that a marriage can be solemnised and registered on the production of a computerized national identity card (CNIC). In case of a dispute regarding the age of any contracting party, the court will determine the age based on a birth certificate, educational certificates or any other pertinent document. In the absence of such documents, the age may be determined based on a medical examination report.

The bill also proposes rigorous punishments for an adult marrying a child, solemnising or registering a child marriage and for parents or guardians involved in a child marriage. An adult who contracts a child marriage could face rigorous imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of up to Rs20,00,000.

Punjab Home Department Secretary Mr Mengal told Dawn that a meeting of the department was conducted about the submission of the draft law. He said the proposed Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2024-25 was submitted to Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz and Cabinet.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 28th April 2024.
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