Kashmir: GB leaders and NCSW express concerns over child marriage

Jammu & Kashmir POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

GILGIT: Civil society representatives and the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) have expressed reservations regarding the lack of constitutional rights and laws protecting women, including underage marriage in GB.

They demanded immediate legislation to empower women in GB. The NCSW, with the support of partners United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Unicef, and UN-Women, recently held a two-day National Consultation on Child Marriage, with the second round taking place in Gilgit on Friday.

The participants included Chair­person of NCSW Ms Nilofar Bakh­t­iar, GB Assembly Speaker Nazir Ahmed Advocate, GB Minister of Women Development Ms Dilshad Bano, Secretary of Social Welfare Development Fida Hussain, as well as experts, advocates, policymakers and representatives from federal and GB departments.

Speakers expressed concerns about the absence of laws protecting women, including early child marriage, in the region.

Ms Bakhtiar mentioned that the NCSW was collaborating with civil society, relevant government departments, educational institutions, and religious scholars to review and improve the draft child marriage restraint bill for GB.

Ms Bakhtiar expressed concerns about the lack of rights for women in the region compared to other parts of the country. She highlighted that Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan has the highest rate of early marriage in the country and lamented the absence of access to law and judiciary for women to protect their rights.

She demanded legislation to ensure women’s rights and noted that GB lacks women’s shelters and separate jails.

She emphasised that the protection of young girls from sexual and social exploitation could only be achieved through proper education.

GB Assembly Speaker Nazir Ahmed Advocate announced that a bill to end child marriage would be presented in the GB assembly.

He said, in 2015, a bill was submitted in the GB assembly to end child marriages; however, it has not been tabled so far. Mr Ahmed, while ad­­d­re­ssing the event as the chief guest, specially thanked the chairperson of the NCSW for her keen interest in the issue of child marriage in GB.

He pointed out that in “our society, we do not allow anyone to drive, work, or enter into an agreement before reaching the age of majority, which is 18 years. However, we permit underage marriage, which is one of the most serious contracts in life. This is simply against the common sense and it has no religious base”.

Ms Bano stated that GB women face multiple issues, including early child marriage. She mentioned that many incidents related to women are reported in the media or to the police. Ms Bano also noted that there are threats from powerful mafias to prevent the reporting of such incidents. It is alarming that GB has the highest number of child marriages in Pakistan, she said.__courtesy dawn.com