Pakistan just took another major step to protect young girls against child marriage.
The Senate Committee on Human Rights unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday to raise the minimum marriage age from 16 to 18, Samaa reports. The new law is an amendment to the Marriage Restraint Act of 1929.
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“Everyone should be made aware of the negative impact child marriages have on Pakistani families, particularly on their health and standard of living,” said Sherry Rehman, senator and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, according to the Nation.
“This menace has already caused enough damage and will continue to ruin the next generation if not immediately stopped,” she warned.
Traditional practices and culture in Pakistan perpetuate child marriage, according to the anti-child marriage organization Girls Not Brides. The organization reported Pakistan has the 6th highest rate of child marriage in the world. Around 21% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18, according to UNICEF.
Child marriage has always been one of the major concerns as recently; a 16 year old #Hindu girl in Pakistan's Sindhi province was forced and married off to a Muslim man.— H4Human (@h4humanrights) January 25, 2019
What do you think, how we can end this violation of #ChildRights? pic.twitter.com/8yDqClIbjY
Child brides who stop attending school are more likely to experience an early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications. Child marriage also makes it more difficult for women, and their families to break out of poverty. In Pakistan, 39% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty.
The Pakistani government is working to end child marriage, but Rehman wants to expedite the process. The country criminalized the act in 2017, and Sindh province, where the practice is most common, already raised the minimum marriage age for girls from 16 to 18. But parliament still needs to approve the new regulation next month, before the new age restriction takes effect everywhere else.
“Young women and their children are at risk every single day that this amendment sits in parliament,” Rehman said.