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Christian charity elated as Pakistan moves toward ending child marriage

by Tola Mbakwe

Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a religious freedom charity which focuses its work in Pakistan, has thanked the Senate after it passed a bill to set the minimum marriage age at 18.

The amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Bill, 1929 now means that underage marriage can lead to a sentence of up to three years in prison, a fine of at least Rs100,000 (equivalent of £1,100), or both.

CLAAS said this is a big win for religious minorities who have concerns that their underage girls are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and then marry their kidnappers.

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK, said: "I would like to congratulate all the political parties and their representatives who supported this bill.

"The passing of this bill is a great thing, but the implementation will be equally important and if the government fails to implement this law like it has with serval other laws, then people won't benefit from it."

According to CLAAS, Senator Sherry Rehman, who presented the bill, was met with resistance from members of Islamist parties.

Some argued that fixing the age as 18 was inconsistent with Sharia law. She argued that since the age of voting is 18, the age of puberty should also be fixed accordingly.

The Senate passed the bill with the opposition of five votes.

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