By Jonah Bennett
A bid to ban child marriage in Pakistan utterly failed, after the Council of Islamic Ideology declared the legislation “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous.”
The bill didn’t even move past the first stage in the legislative process, The Express Tribune reports. It was almost immediately pulled Thursday by Pakistan Muslim League party’s Marvi Menon following condemnation from CII, whose job it is to advise the legislature on whether bills are compliant with Sharia law. In this case, the bill clearly violated Islamic law as tradition holds marriage as acceptable when a girl hits puberty.
After CII’s declaration, a parliamentary committee rejected the legislation solely for religious reasons and Menon subsequently pulled the legislation.
Existing legislation in Pakistan already violates Islamic law. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2014 places the legal age of marriage at 16 for women, but the recent proposal attempted to move that age up to 18 and also included serious punishment for the common practice of child marriage. That punishment would have included prison for up to two years for anyone caught engaging in child marriage.
According to the organization Girls Not Brides, over 21 percent of the girls in Pakistan enter into marriage before the age of 18.
CII Chairman Mohammad Khan Sheerani reiterated in 2014 that girls can be married at age nine, so long as puberty is apparent, adding that attempts to revisit the issue are pointless and unnecessary.
“Parliament cannot create legislation that is against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah,” Sheerani said in 2014, according to The Express Tribune.
CII was created in 1962 with the express purpose of advising parliament on Islamic law.
CII is also known for calling to make DNA evidence inadmissible in rape cases as recently as 2013. What CII wanted instead is to bring back the old practice of bringing in four witnesses to support rape claims.
With increasing immigration, the practice of child marriage has also spread to the West, raising alarm especially in the United Kingdom. According to data from the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit, there were 1,485 cases of child marriage in 2012. Another government report also found child marriage is increasing around the world, with the rate expected to climb to 14 million child marriages a year before 2020 hits.
Pakistan has pledged to end child marriage by 2030 as part of a global initiative.
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