Photo credit: Bedari
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.
* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.
It is estimated that 21% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.
Child marriage in Pakistan is connected with tradition, culture, and customary practices. It sometimes involves the transfer of money, settlement of debts or exchange of daughters (Vani / Swara or Watta Satta) sanctioned by a Jirga or Panchayat (council of elders from the community).
Social and gender inequality, a desire to control women’s sexuality and protect family honour, economic hardship and lack of awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage are common driving factors.
Legal age of marriage
Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) 1929 sets the legal age for marriage to 16 for women and 18 for men.
In May 2017, the National Assembly rejected the draft Child Marriage Restraint Act for the second time. The proposal would have increased the legal age for marriage from 16 to 18 nationwide.
In February 2017, the Parliament adopted an amendment to the Penal Code that would toughen punishment against child marriage. Offenders face a minimum of five years in prison and may serve up to 10 years. They also face a fine of up to 1 million rupees ($9,547).
In April 2014, the Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, increasing the minimum age of marriage to 18 and making marriage below 18 a punishable offence. A proposed similar nationwide bill was unfortunately struck down by Pakistan’s National Assembly in 2014.
In Punjab, a Bill introducing harsher penalties for marriage under the age of 16 was also adopted. However, it does not increase the age of marriage to 18.
In a recent series of rulings, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body which gives Islamic legal advice to the Pakistani Government, declared that Pakistani laws prohibiting child marriage are un-Islamic. The rulings were widely criticised.
Regional and global advocacy
Pakistan is a member of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), an inter-governmental body which has adopted a regional action plan to target child marriage. Find out more.
Pakistan was among the first States to propose a target to end child marriage by 2030 in discussions of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, a major inter-governmental process that helped to shape the next set of international development goals.
Members In Pakistan
- Action Aid
- Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation
- Al-Mehran Rural Development organisation (AMRDO)
- Aware Girls
- AWAZ Foundation Pakistan Centre for Development Studies
- Baanhn Beli
- Blue Veins
- Children and Women Trust
- Civil Society Support Program (CSSP)
- Community Initiatives for Development in Pakistan (CIDP)
- Community Research and Development Organization (CRDO)
- Dawn Development Organization
- Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD)
- Development & Economic Empowerment of People (DEEP) Foundation
- Development Institutions’ Network (DIN)
- Development of Institution and Youth Alliance (DIYA)
- Fast Rural Development Program (FRDP)
- Formation Awareness and Community Empowerment Society (FACES)
- Gender and Empowerment Organization (GEO)
- Girls Assembly
- Girls United for Human Rights (GUHR)
- Hamdam Development Organization (HDO)
- HARD Balochistan
- Hari Welfare Association
- Holding Hands Organization
- Human Oriented Productive Environment (HOPE)
- Hwa Foundation
- Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT)
- Jaag Welfare Movement
- Kafka Welfare Organization
- Kehkashan Development Organization
- Literate Masses
- Nari Foundation
- National Integrated Development Association (NIDA-Pakistan)
- Organisation for Public Interest (OPI)
- Organization for Community Development (OCD)
- Organization for Development and Peace
- Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organisation (PRWSWO)
- Parveen Nadeem Welfare Organization (PNWO)
- Peace Foundation
- Psycho-Social Research Advocacy and Rule of Law (PAROL)
- Reformists’ Social Welfare and Development Organisation (RSWDO)
- Roshni Welfare Organization (RWO)
- Rural Development Association
- Rural Development Foundation
- Saher Arts for Peace & Sustainable Development
- Sangtani Women Rural Development Organization (SWRDO)
- Save the Children
- Sindh Community Foundation (SCF)
- Sindh Development Society (SDS)
- Sister’s Council (khwendo jirga)
- Social Organization for Justice and Human Rights Observation
- Society for Mobilization, Advocacy and Justice (SMAAJ)
- Society for Rights and Development
- Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC)
- Sujag Sansar Organization
- Sukaar Welfare Organization
- Sustainable Transformation for Rural Initiatives and Voluntary Efforts (STRIVE)
- The Awakening
- Unique Development Organization
- VSO International
- Youth Association for Development (YAD)
- UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children, 2016
- UNFPA, Study Report: Child Marriage in Pakistan, 2007
- Khawar Mumtaz, Sohail Warraich, Shariq Imam et al. Committee for Standardisation of Female Age of Marriage, Age of Marriage, a Position Paper, page 20
- UNICEF Discussion Paper, Early Marriage, 2009