The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was drafted by Quaid-i-Azam- Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Father of the Nation) and introduced by a Hindu, Rai Haridas Sarda, and is also known as the Sarda Bill. Jinnah was very concerned about the widespread child marriage in British India, which he considered a violation of the fundamental rights of young girls and a major obstacle to their education and development.
In 1927, Mohammad Ali Jinnah introduced a bill in the Central Legislative Assembly calling for the prohibition of child marriage in British India. The bill was initially opposed by some members of the Assembly and considered controversial and remained in limbo in the house for two years. Despite the opposition, Jinnah spoke strongly in favour of the bill’s passage, saying, “I cannot believe that there can be any divine sanction for such evil practices as are prevailing, and that we should for a single minute give our sanction to the continuance of these evil practices any longer. How can there be such a divine sanction to this cruel, horrible, disgraceful, inhuman practice that is prevailing in India?” During his time as a member of the Indian National Congress, he campaigned tirelessly for the passage of the Child Marriage Restraint Act passed in 1929. The Child Marriage Restraint Act prohibited the marriage of girls under the age of 14 and boys under the age of 18, making it a punishable offence with imprisonment and a fine.
It is worth noting that Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s advocacy for children’s rights was based on a deep commitment to social justice and equality. His legacy as a champion of children’s rights continues to inspire people around the world today.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 is still in force in Pakistan in ICT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. The Child Marriage Restraint Act was amended in 1961 by raising the age of marriage for girls from 14 to 16. The fine imposed in 1929 does not match the value of the fine in 2023, but it shows how serious Jinnah was about banning child marriages, and for many parliamentarians today it is not even an issue. Despite several attempts, the child marriage bills in ICT, KP and Balochistan have not seen the light of the day and opposed by parliamentarians.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah married for the first time at the age of 16. In 1892, he married his cousin Emibai, who was also a child. Shortly after the marriage, Jinnah travelled to England to pursue higher academic studies. While in England, his wife died of illness within a year of their marriage.
The governments of Sindh and Punjab provinces have enacted their own laws on child marriage, the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act in 2013 and the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act in 2015.
by: Qindeel Shujaat- He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org