Bedari team Lahore had a meeting with parliamentarians (Women caucus) to address the issue of Child Marriage and engage girls in educational and productive activities. It was a combined activity under the projects, Marriage No Child’s Play and Her Choice. Following issues were discussed in detail:
1. Discuss flows in Child marriage law and push women caucus to perform their role in legislation assembly.
2. Amend the current Child marriage law and present in the assembly from women caucus platform.
3. Increase the minimum age of girl from 16 to 18 for marriage.
4. Legislative perspective of child marriage.
5. Nullification of any marriage in which any of the two parties proved to be child.
The Women caucus took lead and decided to move agenda forward.
Bedari team had been conducting one on one meeting with members of Women Caucus on the said issues. After several individual meetings, women caucus was called for combined meeting. With this combined consultation meeting, Bedari came to know that there are members in parliament holding big designations who don’t see child marriage as violation of human rights and have supportive behavior towards this act.
Ms. Nighat Sheikh, Ms. Lubna, and Ms. Shamila Aslam talked in the favor of girls’ age for marriage to be 16. They were of the view that it’s not good for our society and culture to increase girls’ age for marriage to 18 years, the minimum age which by law is 16 years, is fine. The rate of abortion in young girls is increasing day by day so it’s good to marry the girl as she reaches 15 to 16 years of age.
While there is small number of parliamentarians in favor of child marriage, we saw large number of parliamentarians who understand the consequences of child marriage. Dr. Najma Afzal opposed and said that this is violation of girl’s basic right of education and participation. It minimizes economic opportunities for her and puts her life at risk for early, frequent and high-risk pregnancies. Ms. Gulnaz Shehzai shared that we can’t control our population without controlling child marriage. Ms. Irum Hassan and Shazia Kamran stated that Pakistan is a country where females are at risk throughout their life via child marriage, domestic violence, divorce, honor killing, etc. Raheela Khaddim elaborated the flaws in the law regarding child marriage.
Ms. Kanwal Nauman (Chairman Women caucus Punjab Assembly) committed that she and Ms. Raheela will present the bill in the assembly and would involve more parliamentarians to work on this issue.
- Mass awareness raising campaigns need to be initiated to sensitize the general public regarding girl child marriage. Media can play a critical role in passing key messages to the public in a gender sensitive manner.
- There is need for revisions in school curriculums to include gender sensitive messages highlighting the importance of women’s rights leading to a paradigm shift in the attitudes of the society.
- The biggest hurdle in preventing girl child marriage remains the cultural practices and traditional attitudes of the people. These cannot be changed by any single agency and there is need for a collective, unified voice to be raised against the issue by every sector of the society.
- Men remain the decision makers within the society and their roles as fathers, brothers and husbands needs to be emphasized. It is necessary to work directly and repeatedly with men to sensitize them and change their attitudes towards women.
Furthermore, Ms.Kanwal Nauman said to meet again in the next session of assembly so we can discuss all the aspects which come as a barrier in this legislation; Gulnaz Shehzadi was given the task to inform Bedari before this meeting. Bedari team thanked all the participants of Women caucus and appreciated their role and seriousness for betterment in lives of girls.