August 2, 2023
By Maryam Missal
The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) presented the draft of proposed amendments in the Child Marriage Restraint Act to the Minister of Human Rights Riaz Pirzada on Tuesday in a two-day event held in Islamabad.
Pirzada has pledged to present the proposed amendment bill in the concluding session of the five-year term of the National Assembly.
NCSW has proposed amendments to the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 which considers age eighteen for males and sixteen for females to be the legal age to enter the marriage contract.
The Act of 1929, defines a child as means a person who, if a male, is under 18 years of age, and if a female, is under [sixteen] years of age.
The amendment seeks to define “child” as a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years.
The proposed draft of the bill is to be called Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 2022.
The proposal by NCSW also defines “court” as a family court established under section 3 of the Family Court Act. According to the Substitution of Section 8 of the Act, A Family Court shall be deemed to be the Judicial Magistrate of the first class for taking cognizance and trial of any offence under this Act.
Moreover, a Family Court shall decide the case within three months and in case of failing the matter shall be brought to the notice of the District and Sessions Judge concerned for appropriate directions.
Legal Advisor of NCSW, Sharafat Ali, while speaking to Voicepk.net said that the most significant proposed amendment is the revision of the punishment of the crime.
“Rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years but shall not be less than two years and a fine which may extend to two hundred thousand rupees but shall not be less than one hundred thousand rupees”,
is the proposed punishment for the offence, reads Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act of 2022.
Another noteworthy amendment is the inclusion of a clause that ensures the examination of the attested copy of a Computerized National Identity Card, Passport or any other document to prove the age of both parties to the marriage.
The proposed bill shall be presented in the National Assembly during the concluding session of the five-year term of the assembly.
Well done Min Human Rights #RiazPirzada for publicly pledging today to get the Bill against child marriage tabled in National Assembly. Bill prepared by @ncswpk endorsed by religious ministry. Hope it is passed & law enacted in the last few days of the Assembly & government
— Farhatullah Babar (@FarhatullahB) August 1, 2023
Ali says a possible challenge could be the time restraint as the tabling is pushed till the end of the Assembly tenure.
The amendment bill has the potential to be challenged by the Federal Shariah Court (FSC) and Council of Islamic Ideology, according to legal experts, although, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has reviewed the draft and has given positive remarks for the initiative.
Islamabad High Court’s ruling that Pakistan is required to uphold the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child served as the foundation for NCSW’s proposal, and no one under the age of 18 is capable of entering into a legally binding contract without the consent of both parties, and marriage is a civil contract.
Furthermore, according to the most recent amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, alluring a person under the age of 18 for any sexual activity, even for marriage, is considered sexual abuse and rape and is punishable per the law.
An FSC ruling that states that the State must control, restrain, or curb any act in a society that may have negative effects on society as a whole or any of its components, no matter how slight, strengthens the basis of the proposed amendments.