Health Dept. for age limit for girls’ marriage

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The primary and secondary healthcare department has come up with a proposal to enhance the age limit of girl child for marriage following reports that the hormonal changes during adolescence are leading to physiological disorders. Currently the age for girl child is 16 years old.  Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Minister Dr Jamal Nasir said this while speaking at a consultative session held under the auspices of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on 11 January 2024.

He said forcing minor girls or those who were not physically or emotionally mature could lead to multiple problems in these young brides.

`Furthermore, medical evidence supports the fact that women are geneticallyand naturally more vulnerable, necessitating the protection of their fundamental rights`, the minister said.

He said subjecting them to married life at a tender age could cause a drastic deterioration in their physical health.

`Our society grapples with a dilemma when dealing with infertility; typically, the burden of costly and painful testing falls solely on the wife, while the husband may neglect such examinations`, Dr Jamal said. This societal behaviour contributes to both physical and mental healthissues, he added.

NCSW Chairperson Nilofar Bakhtiar expressed the commission`s awareness of the gravity of the social issue, which deprives girls of their fundamental rights to choose, health, and education.

Recognising the profound impact of child marriage, she said, the NCSW has consistently engaged its mandate toreview related legislation, identifying the need for amendments and effective implementation approaches.

For those already married at a young age, the commission advocates providing access to education, healthcare, psychosocial support, and the development of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes to help child brides rebuild theirlives and pursue their aspirations.

`Let`s unite to end child marriage.

Every child deserves a childhood filled with education, play, and dreams, not forced into marriage. Together, we can break the chains that deny them their rights and build a future where every child can flourish,` Bakhtiar urged.

The NCSW highlights urgency in building national consensus to eradicate child marriage across Pakistan.

About the event, the speakers said in collaboration with its esteemed develop-ment partners, namely UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women, the commission convened the critical consultation with provincial stakeholders in Lahore on the status of women. The objective was to chart an effective course of action following impactful discussions on ending child marriage in the country.

Provincial stakeholders participating in the event included the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, social welfare department, the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, Punjab Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Department, health department, and Punjab Local Government and Community Development Department. The attendees comprised representatives from government departments, civil society organisations, NGOs, mental and physical health experts,students, and journalists.

Acknowledgement: Published in Daily Dawn on 12 Jan 2024

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