In the last newsletter of Girls Not Brides International there was an article on a new child marriage restraint act in Pakistan, to be passed in the parliament. Her Choice’s Pakistani partner Bedari has been instrumental in these positive developments. With the support of Dutch knowledge organization International Child Development Initiatives Bedari staff have undertaken targeted lobby and advocacy activities to parliamentarians and other stakeholders to ensure that the legal marriage age is raised to 18 years. Anbreen Ajib, director of Bedari, reports:
“The Senate Committee on Human Rights approved the bill on raising the age of marriage of girls to 18 on 30 January 2019. This is the first milestone achieved for our advocacy activities on this matter. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate and the National Assembly in order to make it a law.
As part of the Her Choice and More Than Brides programmes, Bedari is consistently engaged with lawmakers. The Senate Committee on the Interior under the chairpersonship of senator Rehman Malik invited representatives of civil society to a formal meeting of the committee. This invitation was in turn a result of an earlier meeting with senator Rehman Malik, where Bedari along with other organizations presented the facts and rationale behind the bill. In the formal meeting of the Senate Committee, Bedari presented the state of child marriages in Pakistan. Bedari also provided facts and figures about girls drop out from schools because of this problem. As a result the Committee approved the bill and recommended it to be passed by the Senate.
Bedari was in continuous contact with senators to lobby for the bill. We are part of a whatsapp group called ‘Child Marriage Restraint’, along with other civil society organizations and several senators. The Senate however, while discussing this bill, referred it to the Council of Islamic Ideology for recommendations. Bedari then also started talking to the Council of Islamic Ideology, conducted three meetings with its chairman, and provided them with information from other Islamic countries, to make their recommendations in favour of the amendment. Senator Seher Kamran handed over the bill to the newly elected leader of opposition Ms Shery Rehman, who started working on it to present it to the Senate.
Bedari conducted meetings with Shery Rehman in April 2018 to brief her about the previous efforts and to show solidarity for getting this bill presented again. Right after the elections, the Senator shared the text of the proposed bill with Bedari and two other organisations for review. These organization provided joint feedback on the bill and the passed bill includes our recommendations. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate and then has to be presented in the National Assembly. Therefore we are in touch with senators from different political parties to support the bill. We are hopeful for the Senate to pass it since a majority seems to be in favour.”