Futile Law And Innocent Souls
A powerful country is not identified by its military might or its economic edge but, by the resilience of its people. The people of Pakistan as noted by many in the west have astonished rest of the world by their resilient attitude in the face of terrorism, sectarianism, energy crisis, dealing with corrupt governments and the list continues. It is the result of this sternness that state of Pakistan is undoubtedly a hard country to govern but not a failed state. i.e.sub-Saharan states.
Nevertheless, even more grave cancers effect us, those which are capable of jolting any morally conscious society. Among numerous moral evils that malign the Pakistani society and where the legal regime is wholly inadequate is the area of child marriage. It has been embedded in our culture for hundreds of years. It is one aspect of our society where the health of the adolescent is considered unworthy of notice and, where the child is left with no option but to succumb to solemnize.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the prevailing yet neglected issue of child marriage law in Punjab. Prior to the ratification of provincial autonomy by the 18th amendment in the constitution, the act governing the field of child marriages was Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. Responding to the insufficiency of it, Punjab passed its own statute by the name of Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2015. While, passing an act of parliament can allay all doubts about the competence of the executive in the mind of an ordinary person, thereby strengthening the political grounds of the government. It is imperative to closely look at it to ascertain if the law has brought people which it targets to a better position (children in this case). It is the contention of this article that the act has blatant errors.
The gravity of the issue is great, so much so that between 2008-2009, almost 24,228 children of age group were reported married. Notwithstanding, the escalating number unreported cases. These numbers keep rising, yet surprisingly the most recent Punjab Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) act 2015 has failed to the reach the thrust of the problem. In fact, the way it is drafted infers an intuition that the legislators were only aiming to strengthen their political ground in the eyes of the public.
Absurdity flows from the legal regime. First, there seems to be no rationale behind the discrepancy between the age of a girl and a boy to be considered as a child. Quite bluntly, it contravenes a fundamental right of the constitution of Pakistan and a generic rule of law maxim that the law should not be discriminatory on the basis of gender, religion, race, etc. While doing so, it also elucidates to the deep inequality in the discourse of Pakistani society in the 21st century. Secondly, one of the mechanisms of the criminal justice system is to deter crime, so is the purpose of this legislation. Section 4 of the act imposes 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of fifty thousand. However, solemnizing has never been regarded a crime in our society, thus this purpose of deterrence is a hollow one. A new mechanism must be sought, one which is premised around rehabilitation of the child i.e. empowering and educating. More significantly, a thorough rehabilitation/awareness process is crucial in the rural areas where child marriage is a prevalent ritual to be successfully enforced by the will of people.
Being the 6th most populous country and part of the third world, child marriages will bring adversity to our current futile system by adding more unemployed individuals, eventually tarnishing the already degraded standard of living. Hence, if this trend is not curtailed with the help of proper educative measures, then today’s inequality will deepen to a point where our society may witness ever more soaring crime rates.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.