We can marry children now

The Child Marriage Restraint (amendment) Bill 2017 has been rejected by the senate for being un-Islamic. In other parts of the world, giants such as Weinstein are being brought down for harassing the women they worked with. On the face, the two seem unrelated. But, if one goes deeper, the connection becomes apparent.

The logic given by the chairman of the committee is strange. He insists that he has spoken to religious scholars and they’ve agreed that girls can be married before they turn 18. Strange. The chairman should had visited a biologist, a doctor or a psychologist to confirm this. If that was difficult, he could have even gone to a social scientist to inquire if what he proposed made any sense. But, he instead went to the religious scholar who, with all his intellect, chose to insist that girls could in fact be married before they turned 18. How a religious scholar gets the expertise to decide such a matter escapes me. Maybe, the whole institution of university, science and, well, common sense, is a massive propaganda against the all-knowing religious scholars who, as this declaration proves, know everything. And, hence, the bill has been rejected, in the absence of Senator Sehar Kamran, who’d proposed it. In other words, the bill was rejected with no protests or opposition. That’s commonplace, really. After all, Pakistani women’s issues tend to be resolved hurriedly and without their involvement. 

The society will not react. Educated people in the populace will hush themselves down, claiming that the religious scholars know what they are talking about. Such is the attitude of this society that constantly obsesses over becoming the best society that there can be. This blatant disregard for conversation, debates and intellectual discourse has brought it to where it stands today. These words will hold witness that this same attitude will drown it even further into an abyss of its own destruction.

And then there is the other world. Weinstein is a legend and, until mere days ago, was arguably one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. He was rich and influential. A man who knew the powerfuls in the powerfuls. Now, he is disgraced. Women brought the giant down and in the aftermath of the fall, the society at large is supporting them for doing just that. You don’t see the bigotry there that would have followed a similar revealing in our beautiful homeland: but, she was there too so she is as much to blame. No, there, in the land where people think, they know that circumstantial actions do not reveal the whole truth. They recognise that a context lays in every story and it is up to them, using logic and understanding that is constantly evolving and improving, to judge right from wrong. White from black.

Let’s bring the argument home. Why does it not anger the society at large that our representatives chose such arguments to destine our future generations to ridiculous fates? By shunning away this bill, the chairman has single handedly institutionalised child marriages. A Pakistani girl, due to the society she is born in, has little agency when she is an ‘adult’. Now, the chairman insists that an even younger girl would have the ability to, authority and the courage to say no to a marriage that is forced down on her by parents. Then, as is the norm, the girls would be subjected to household commitments, taking care of the family, sacrificing her wishes and passions and hence being economically unproductive to the country. Why? Well, because certain religious scholars insisted on her fate.

We, in Pakistan, have got it wrong. Education is not getting degrees and showing them off to our relatives every chance one gets. Education- true education- is the tool that allows people to think, to question, to rationalise and to form well-thought opinions. It is this education that improves society. We have to change our curriculum to make a society that would be at ease to shun precedents if they stop making sense. We need a society that can ignore protocols and criticise someone (and indeed themselves) no matter how controversial the situation may be. We need a society that would elect people who have some sense in them and who consult experts in the field in question and not just ‘religious leaders’. By seeking their advice, the chairman has tainted a social issue with religious colours. As we know already, in Pakistan, this makes things permanent. Sorry future Pakistani girls, your fate is now sealed.

The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.