‘Couple’s CNICs be made a must to check DADU: In order to ensure an effective check on early marriages, it must be made binding upon Nikah registrars to see that the groom and bride contracting a wedlock do have genuine computerised national identity cards (CNICs) as under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act-2013, marriage of a person under 18 years of age is unlawful. The police should also play their role in restraining underage marriages by invoking relevant sections of the law while registering an FIR against offenders.
This was stressed at the orientation session, held at the local press club, of an awareness drive being run by the Sindh Community Foundation (SCF) in collaboration with several other non-governmental organisations in Sindh. Such orientation sessions are being held in other parts of the province including Tando Mohammed Khan.
Speaking to the local civil society activists, journalists and members of the general public, human rights activist Iqbal Detho observed that Sindh was the first province to have introduced the law against underage marriages.
He hoped that the government and media would play their due role in the effective implementation of the law and creating awareness of all issues relating to child marriages.
“No doubt enactment of the law is a significant development but underage marraiages can be checked only when we will succeed in changing the mindset, behaviours and norms of society contributing to the trend,” he said.
Highlighting the problems relating to underage marriages, he said that most serious of them was a high rate of mother and neonatal mortality. He noted that the trend was witnessed mostly in the rural areas. He observed that after making the legislation, the Sindh government had pledged to set up district level committees to implement the law but no progress in this regard was seen as yet.
He suggested that the local government institutions could play a very effective role in checking the trend by keeping a close eye on marriages within their jurisdiction and monitoring the record of Nikah registrars, who must be under obligation to see that the groom and bride coming to them to contract a wedlock did have genuine CNICs.
Javed Hussain of the SCF urged the media to play its due role in highlighting the issues relating to an underage marriage so that parents/guardians could have awareness of all demerits of such a relationship before going for it. “By curbing the trend, we will be able to help address numerous other issues like domestic violence, violence against women, poverty, women’s rights, child rights etc,” he said. Mr Hussain told the audience that 10 human rights support groups comprising community welfare activists had been formed for Dadu and Johi talukas to work in 10 selected villages to check underage marriages.
He hoped that elected representatives at local and provincial governments level would extend their cooperation to the groups.
Punhal Sario of the Sindh Hari Porhiyat Council expressed the view that the trend of underage marriages was promoted by the feudal mindset to exploit poor families.
“Women and girls in the rural areas feel insecure due to the exploitation on the part of the feudal lords of their respective areas,” he noted. He stressed the need for creating a sense of protection among them through this particular initiative.
Rehana Khushik, Ayesha Durrani, Mushtaq Rodhnani, Sahib Khan Mugheri, Niaz Chandio and Haut Khan were among the others who also spoke.