Enactment of Child Marriage Restraint Bill demanded from Govt. of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, EVAW Alliance
EVAW/G Alliance (KP) in collaboration with UN Women Pakistan has organized a press conference at Peshawar Press Club on the issue of pending Child Marriages restrain Bill in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. An E Conference was also held a few days ago in this regard which was attended by civil society, religious scholars, politicians and human right activists.
EVAW Alliance member organizations said that the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic is still uncertain, but they envisage significant impacts for marginalized groups particularly girls and young women. There are reports that in some areas, girls who are out of schools are being prepared for child marriage as a result of COVID-19 and its anticipated impacts. Girls and young women face underlying age-related barriers and discrimination in accessing essential services, information, support and safety for protection of their rights. The COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate these existing vulnerabilities and result in both immediate and long-term impacts for girls at a devastating level.
CSOs cautioned that forced child marriages could be on the rise due to school closures, food insecurity, and economic uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pakistan anecdotal evidence suggests spikes in the ratio of child marriages. Similarly, girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also at a substantial risk of gender-based violence, early pregnancy and dropping out once schools re-open.
Qamar Naseem Co-chair of EVAW/G Alliance KP said “Mostly people in our communities take cover of Islamic teachings for child marriages, that is absolutely incorrect. Islam is a visionary religion and it has undoubtedly stated that at the time of marriage , a person should have reached its maturity including both physical and mental development”. “Efforts to end, marriages must include adolescent girl programming and safe spaces. All girls under 18 must be granted access to education, psychosocial support, and reproductive health services Social, cultural and gender norms, roles and relations influence women’s and men’s vulnerability to infection, exposure and treatment. COVID-19 responses must therefore be informed by strong analysis of gender inequalities and sex- and age-disaggregated data.”
Sana Ahmed Program Officer Blue Veins said, “Emergency settings as pandemic of this nature will also present unique challenges that can increase child marriage both in the acute and recovery phases. Challenges include the loss of household income, higher risk of violence in the household and lack of access to schooling.”
The EVAW/G Alliance members put in the following key demands:
- Enact KP Child marriage restraint amendment bill 2019 without any further delay.
- Increase and prioritize efforts to safely and meaningfully consult with adolescent girls about their needs, priorities, and solutions during containment, response, and recovery efforts.
- Support public policy efforts aimed at interrupting child marriages during the pandemic and beyond.
- Political Advocacy for social protection to prevent an increase in child marriage as a negative coping mechanism.
- Advocate for continued provision of adolescent health services and information and greater investments in GBV services.