Nikah Registrars are making money by solemnizing child marriages in Punjab and Sindh

Islamabad- December 30, 2014: The Institute for Social Justice’s (ISJ)’s fact finding team has learnt that a 8 years old boy (Mohammad Amir son of Muhammad Razi) and 11 years old girl (Jameela Bibi daughter of Fida Hussain) were married in a village Mir Mohammad Khosa, Nari Farm, Moaza Darkhast Jamal Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan. Their Nikah was solemnized by a Marriage Registrar, Fida Hussain Kaloi, and girl’s rukhsati (sending off) will take place within a few days. The fact finding team revealed that the police is not taking action against the violators of child marriage restraint act 1929, which Punjab had adopted in 2011.

The fact finding team revealed that the issue of child marriage is common in DG Khan and other parts of Southern Punjab mainly in those areas which are close to river Indus and close to Indian border. In these areas, there is no writ of the state, and no one can dare to ask about tribal systems in which children are married in minor ages.

Locals of village Mir Mohammad Khosa informed that a few days ago a minor girl from Ahmadani tribe was married with a young boy, on the complaint of the local activists, the police of Police Station Darkhast Jamal Khan had arrested both families of Ahmadani tribe but released these after getting bribe.

According to the fact finding team of the ISJ, in these areas, a girl is reported married immediately after her first menstruation, once a girl gets it, her mother declares her able to be married. It was also disclosed by the team that in these areas, families married off their girls in minor age by 12/13 years of age because of fear of losing virginity, which might cause stigma for family.

The ISJ is conducting a survey in katch area on both sides of river Indus in Southern Punjab and Sindh. The initial findings of the survey revealed that about 70 percent girls are married before 16 years of age and 50 percent of these are married by 12/13 years of age. These are those areas in Sindh and Punjab where exchange (wata sata) marriage is extremely common, which take place mainly because of keeping balance of power to use women in two different houses. In this marriage, the age of girl and boy is not important; they are married when the other party wants to have the girl for doing household chores, in this case, even the girl’s first menstruation is not given any consideration. Communities living by river Indus do not give consideration to formal registration of marriage; it takes place only with prayers and consent of parents.

The initial findings also reveal that in these areas, there are hardly any schools for girls, initially primary schools do not exists if these exists but parents only send to boys.

Awareness on the law of the child marriage restraint act is none-existential, even the marriage registration authorities are unaware about it. However, due to reporting of child marriage cases in the media, people hide real ages of children, and on the Marriage Register, they write 16 years and 18 years for girls and boys respectively. Since there is no provision in the law to ensure ages of marrying couple, therefore, it is easy to arrange such marriages with the consent of nikah registrar.

The ISJ demanded that Governments of Punjab and Sindh should make the police accountable and responsible for child marriages. The police should call meetings of Nikah Registrars, heads of the communities and staff members of Union Councils in these area; these people should be warned about cases of child marriages reported in their areas. The ISJ also demanded for actions to be taken to stop rukhsati of Jameela Bibi in village Mir Mohammad Khosa.