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Pakistan lawmaker battles to raise punishment for child marriage



March 29, 2014 - 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.

One third of women around the world are married before they turn 18, according to the Washington D.C.-based International Center for Research on Women. The tradition of child marriage is most prevalent in South Asia. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 19, the group said. There are no reliable statistics on the number of child marriages in Pakistan. Few cases are reported to the police. The government does not track the issue. (Source: Reuters)




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