A Pakistan senate committee has rejected an amendment bill which would have increased the acceptable age for marriage in the country. The bill was rejected on the basis of Islamic teachings. It proposed raising the marriage age for females from 16 to 18.
The Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control met on Wednesday at the Parliament House in Islamabad to consider the “Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2017,” Pakistan Today reports. The bill was rejected and referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body which gives advice to parliament on the compatibility of laws with Sharia, for any future review.
Chairman Rehman Malik observed that the bill conflicted with Islamic injunctions. “We cannot increase the age for marriage; the age which was allowed in Islam will be followed,” he reportedly stated.
According to The Nation, the argument stems from the fact that “Islam allows the space for younger girls to be married off.” Due to this interpretation of Islam, girls as young as nine years of age are sometimes forced into marriages.
In February 2017, the parliament did adopt an amendment to the penal code that would toughen punishment against those arranging child marriages.
While offenders face a minimum of five to ten years in prison, as well as a fine of up to 1 million rupees ($9,547), the existing laws against child marriages have not stopped some from continuing to arrange them. Forcing young female brides into marriage is common in parts of the country.
An estimated 21 percent of Pakistani girls are married before their 18th birthday.
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