News / Asia

Pakistan Lawmaker Battles for Increased Child Marriage Punishment

Vijay, 20, sits with his wife Preeti, 15, during mass marriage ceremony, Karachi, Nov. 12, 2011.
Vijay, 20, sits with his wife Preeti, 15, during mass marriage ceremony, Karachi, Nov. 12, 2011.
Reuters
A bill introduced in Pakistan's National Assembly to increase the punishment for guardians, clerics and spouses involved in child marriages should be supported by religious leaders, the legislator behind the move said on Wednesday.

"I've seen this injustice in my constituency and around the country in every single province," legislator Marvi Memon told Reuters. "It's time that we stand up for our women."

Pakistan's conservative religious parties strongly opposed the bill tabled by Memon on Tuesday, and some Muslim clerics want the penalties scrapped altogether.

Currently, women can legally marry at 16 in Pakistan and men at 18. But many marry much younger, and the current penalty for anyone involved in a child marriage is a $10 fine, possibly accompanied by up to a month's imprisonment.

Memon has proposed that the fine should be increased to $1,000 and the possible jail sentence to two years. The bill is currently being reviewed.

Earlier this month Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology issued a statement criticizing current laws forbidding child marriage. The Council said that children should be allowed to get married once they reach puberty under Islamic law.

Memon argues that child marriages cause women to become pregnant before their bodies are ready, leading to permanent damage and possible death. She plans to enlist Islamic scholars to refute the guidance of the religious council.

"Early marriages lead to early conceptions, which cause many health issues and sometimes death," Memon said.

Even if Memon's bill is passed, it will be hard to enforce.

Pakistani police are notoriously reluctant to interfere with what many see as culturally acceptable traditions.

Even if police do arrest a suspect, the overworked lower courts can take years to hear a case, and bribes can often make charges disappear.

But the high courts have become more activist in recent years. Judges are increasingly intervening in egregious cases of human rights violations, although their rulings are not always effective and there is little follow-up.

One third of women around the world are married before they turn 18, according to the Washington D.C.-based International Center for Research on Women. The tradition of child marriage is most prevalent in South Asia. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 19, the group said.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of child marriages in Pakistan. Few cases are reported to the police. The government does not track the issue.

Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, who chairs the Council of Islamic Ideology, opposed Memon's introduction of the bill in the parliament. He argued in the National Assembly that current laws forbidding marriage to children contradict the Koran.

He did not return calls seeking comment.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid