In another disturbing example of the abuses that occur in the absence of church (or mosque) and state separation, Pakistani lawmakers have yielded to the demand of Islamic clerics and killed a law that would have imposed real penalties for those who arrange forced child marriages, including raising the legal age of marriages. Clerics denounced the law as “blasphemous” and against Islam.
Some Islamic clerics have maintained that there can be no age limitation on child brides. They often note that Muhammad married Aisha when she was seven and consummated the marriage at nine years old.
The law would have mandated “rigorous” punishment up to two years in prison for those who organize child marriages. The reforms were rejected by a parliamentary committee on religious affairs after opposition from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) which was formed in 1962 to advise parliament on the compatibility of laws with Sharia. A representative from the CII had declared the amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 as “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous.” The CII continues to try to shape the nation’s laws in accordance to its view of Islamic values. In 2013, the CII suggested making DNA inadmissible evidence in rape cases and insisted that Islamic law should bar cases where a victim could not provide four witnesses to back their claims.
Marvi Memon, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), had proposed the new law including raising the age of consent for marriage from 16 years to 18 years. As we have seen, children below the age of 16 are routinely forced into Islamic marriages in Pakistan.