Pakistan Court Mandates Increase in Legal Marriage Age

A high court in Pakistan has ordered the provincial government to amend its child marriage law to remove gender-based age distinctions. The move aims to prevent forced conversions and marriages of girls in the country.

Lahore High Court Justice Shahid Karim declared Punjab Province’s Child Marriage Act of 1929, which set 18 and 16 years as the legal ages for marriage for boys and girls, as discriminatory. The court directed the government to issue a revised version of the law within 15 days.

The court’s decision was in response to a petitioner seeking amendments to the law to align with the constitutional guarantee of equal rights for men and women in Pakistan.

The ruling is seen as a significant step towards combating forced marriages and conversions, particularly affecting minority communities like Christians and Hindus in Pakistan.

Church leaders and rights activists have welcomed the judgment, emphasizing the importance of setting a uniform minimum marriage age of 18 for both boys and girls to protect against exploitation and forced conversions of underage girls.

The United Nations has also called on Pakistan to raise the legal marriage age for girls to 18 to address the vulnerability of women and girls from minority faiths.

The court’s decision is expected to bring positive changes in protecting the rights and well-being of girls in Pakistan, particularly those from marginalized communities.

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