Chandni Kakar:

A bill aiming to put an end to child marriage in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, has been lingering for several years. Currently, the province still adheres to a law dating back to 1929, where the legal marriage age for boys is 18 and for girls is 16. However, the penalties for breaking this law are minimal. Nonetheless, public sentiment is shifting due to efforts to curb early marriages in other provinces like Sindh.

An incident in Balochistan highlighted the challenges in preventing child marriages. Police were apprehensive, deploying a significant force when attempting to intervene. Upon entering a house where a wedding was underway, the women were initially alarmed by the presence of the police, but their fears subsided when activists, including Hamida Noor, approached them.

Hamida Noor, a prominent advocate for women’s rights, recounted her involvement in thwarting a child marriage attempt. Despite the risk of resistance from the household and the community, Hamida and her team pressed forward.

Hamida explained that in 2019, amidst their work on domestic violence cases, they received a call reporting a planned underage marriage in the Kali Qambrani area of Quetta. After confirming the information, they approached the police and decided to take action despite warnings about potential resistance in the tribal area.

Accompanied by a female lawyer and another activist, they approached the local police station and confirmed the ongoing wedding. Despite facing initial opposition, they convinced the police to raid the ceremony.

Upon entering the wedding venue, they encountered resistance from the women present. However, they managed to speak with the young bride and confirmed that she was underage, despite her initial claim of being 18.

The police were instructed to take the girl to the station, but Hamida and her team insisted on detaining the groom as well. Despite legal hurdles and the groom’s subsequent release on bail, the incident served as a deterrent against further attempts at child marriage.

Legal status of child marriage issue

The Federal Shariat Court Islamabad took suo motu notice of an incident of child marriage on 21 November 2022. On which the court had directed the Balochistan government to submit the legislation in this regard and its draft before the next appearance.

Then on March 21, 2023, Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Dr. Syed Muhammad Anwar and Justice Khadim Hussain Sheikh heard the Sumoto case, in which the court took notice of the marriage of a five-year-old girl in Khuzdar district of Balochistan.

During the hearing, the government officials submitted a report in the court that Balochistan has drafted a bill under ‘The Balochistan Child Marriage Probation Act 2021′, which will soon be presented to the cabinet and passed in the Balochistan Assembly after getting its approval. will be submitted for.’
Nasir Baloch, an official from the social welfare agency of Balochistan, confirmed the submission of the bill to the court. Bahram Lahri, an advocate against child marriage, emphasized the urgency of addressing the issue, citing its detrimental impact on maternal and child health.

Bahram recounted the collaborative effort involved in drafting the bill, which sets the legal marriage age at 18 for both boys and girls and imposes stricter penalties for violations. He highlighted the inclusion of provisions empowering the police to intervene and stop child marriages.

Despite the challenges, including resistance from traditional laws and societal norms, activists like Hamida Noor and Bahram Lahri remain committed to ending child marriage in Balochistan through legal reforms and community engagement.

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About the Author

Quetta Voice is an English Daily covering all unfolding political, economic and social issues relating to Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province in terms of area. QV's main focus is on stories related to education, promotion of quality education and publishing reports about out of school children in the province. QV has also a vigilant eye on health, climate change and other key sectors.