child marriage in pakistan
Amendment to child marriage law seeking stricter punishment shot down by Islamic leaders in Pakistan. Picture: Seven-year-old groom Mohammad Waseem (R) sits with his four-year-old bride Nisha (L) and his father Mohammad Ismil in a police station in Karachi October 31, 2008.Reuters

A law to ban child marriages in Pakistan has been discarded after the Islamic council said it was "blasphemous" and "anti-Islamic". If passed, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 would have brought into effect stricter punishment for those who married off children before their permissible age.

Marvi Memon, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, had tabled the amendment to the bill in the lower house of the Parliament. However, she had to withdraw it after the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) said that the amendments were not in line with the Sharia law, sources told AFP on Saturday.

The amendment sought the minimum age for marriage for women should be raised from 16 to 18, and "rigorous" punishment or two-year jail term should be handed to those who conducted child marriages. But, the bill was shot down by the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony after CII termed it as "un-Islamic".

"Marvi wanted deletion of the word 'simple' punishment for those involved in arranging child marriages to 'rigorous' or 'two-year' punishment in the actual legislation," said a source privy to the development.

"Marvi also wanted the age for girls' marriage to be raised from 16 years to 18 years, which does not in any way violate the teachings of Islam," the source told AFP.

"Parliament cannot create legislation that is against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah," The Tribune quoted CII Chairman Mohammad Khan Sheerani as saying.

Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly had, last week, also rejected a ban on child marriage due to religious reasons.

As many as 21% of the girls are married off before they turn 18 in Pakistan, writes the child rights advocacy group Girls Not Brides.

In 2014, the Sindh Assembly had passed a similar amendment to the marriage law. The law mandates the parents of the bride and groom to be sentenced to three years in jail along with a fine of Rs 45,000 if their children are married before they turn 18, reported The Tribune.

The CII had then in a series of rulings said that laws prohibiting child marriage are anti-Islamic as Sharia Law teaches that anyone who has attained puberty is marriageable.