Government officials, religious scholars and civilians gathered to speak against underage marriages in a convention organised by the Center for Communication Programmes Pakistan, in collaboration with civil society organisations.

They subsequently committed to the United Nations that Pakistan will bring an end to underage and forced marriages by 2030, leveling with its plan to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Pakistan is ranked sixth in the world for most underage matrimonies, according to a recent UNICEF report.

According to the UNICEF report, there are a recorded 1.91 million underage marriages in Pakistan. It further reveals that 21% of women in Pakistan are married before they can turn 18. A health survey conducted in 2012-2013 showed that about a third of all women in Pakistan attain motherhood by the age of 20, while one in every four married women between 20 and 24 have been through an underage marriage.

The convention held in Islamabad presented case studies conducted throughout the nation pertaining to these statistics, and dug into the sociological and religious reasoning behind these marriages.

The chairperson for the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus shared that a government bill aiming at increasing the age of marriage of girl from 16 to 18 years including has been submitted to cabinet for approval and will be tabled in the assembly soon.

Rahila Hussain from PML-N contributed to the discussion, saying despite enacting harsher punishments in accordance to the law in Punjab, she was unable to increase the age limit from 16 to 18 years. She went on record to say that much of resistance came from assembly members and religious fraternity.

A renowned religious scholar, Maulana Sharif Hazarvi, stressed on the importance of seeing above the discussion of reasoning of child marriage in the sharia law. He further contended that increasing the age limit would allow the girl to develop moral values to educate her children later on.
In support of this statement, a religious scholar from Jamia Baunri added that mental maturity of both the girl and boy is a must in Islam, without which a model Muslim family unit cannot be expected to form.

Dr. Raghib Naeemi further included the moral, social, and financial challenges created by child marriages.