Pakistan’s Senate has struck down legislation last week that would have increased the minimum age girls to marry from age from 16 to 18. We have previously discussed various cases of child brides being forced into marriage under the medieval Islamic traditions and laws governing much of Pakistan. However, there was hope that the legislature would be more supportive of the basic rights of these girls. That hope was dashed when the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee, Rehman Malik
, explained that such an age limitation on marriage was deemed “Un-Islamic” by clerics who control much of the legislative agenda in Pakistan.
Not only does the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child support a minimum age for marriage of 18, but the rejected Child Marriage Restraint bill stated that “[i]n developing countries, the leading cause of death for young girls between the age of 15 and 18 is early pregnancy.”
After the Child Marriage Restraint Bill was rejected, Rehman Malik explained that Islamic scholars found the protections to conflict with the Koran. He said that they “believe that girls can be married before the age of 18 according to Islam, so these kinds of bills cannot be passed.”
This is not the first time that Islamic clerics have blocked the bill. However, last February, the Parliament did succeed in passing an important bill imposing mandatory five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to one million rupees ($10,000) for those caught marrying any girl under the age of 16.