Pakistan lawmaker battles to raise punishment for child marriage
By Eissa Saeed
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A bill introduced in Pakistan's National Assembly to increase the punishment for guardians, clerics and spouses involved in child marriages should be supported by religious leaders, the legislator behind the move said on Wednesday.
"I've seen this injustice in my constituency and around the country in every single province," legislator Marvi Memon told Reuters. "It's time that we stand up for our women."
Pakistan's conservative religious parties strongly opposed the bill tabled by Memon on Tuesday, and some Muslim clerics want the penalties scrapped altogether.
Currently, women can legally marry at 16 in Pakistan and men at 18. But many marry much younger, and the current penalty for anyone involved in a child marriage is a $10 fine, possibly accompanied by up to a month's imprisonment.
Memon has proposed that the fine should be increased to $1,000 and the possible jail sentence to two years. The bill is currently being reviewed.
Earlier this month Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology issued a statement criticizing current laws forbidding child marriage. The Council said that children should be allowed to get married once they reach puberty under Islamic law.
Memon argues that child marriages cause women to become pregnant before their bodies are ready, leading to permanent damage and possible death. She plans to enlist Islamic scholars to refute the guidance of the religious council.
"Early marriages lead to early conception, which cause many health issues and sometimes death," Memon said. Continued...