In the last eight years of conspicuous governance of the Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh, the region has remained underdeveloped with growing lawlessness and injustice.
The abuse of minorities, children and women have gripped the area and is denying the rights that should not only be legal on paper but should also be implemented. The protectors are the looters with courts filled with corruption and police force filled with uneducated and untrained personnel. It may come as a surprise to a few that the law enforcement authorities in Sindh are unaware of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013. Hence, a high percentage of child marriages are unreported whose count cannot be verified. However, according to the active number of lawyers in the province up to 95% cases of child marriages go unreported in Sindh (the estimate is except Karachi), while in Karachi at least 60% cases of child marriages are not declared by the citizens or not recorded by the law enforcers. The only reported figures from 2014 state that Sindh saw 1,261 cases of women being kidnapped for forced marriages in 2014. These statistics were shared by Sindh Police’s DIG Crime Aftab Pathan.
According to the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, in cases of marriage below the age of 18 the bride, groom and the parents can be sentenced to three years in prison and fined with Rs. 45,000. Nevertheless, what the act forgot to mention was that if a bribe as little as few thousands is paid all these punishments can be waived off with impunity. The previous law of 1929 set the age of a girl for marriage at 14 years with an amendment in 1965 setting the age limit to 16 and awarded three-month imprisonment and Rs1,000 fine to the accused.
The judiciary’s impact in the small cities and especially in the villages of Sindh is to a minimum. Mostly informal justice system such as a Jirga is used as the primary form of the justice system in the community. Jirga is a tribal council made up of tribal elders that hear the pleas and give judgement as necessary. In many town and villages of Sindh, the Jirga often sides with the influentials meaning justice for the poor is just a fantasy.
In a landmark judgment by the Sindh High Court on April 23, 2004, declared the jirga system in Sindh unlawful, but there has been no implementation of the law till today with feudals running the jirga and solving matters in their interest.
The underage brides are sold at Rs. 140,000 with younger girls drawing a larger amount. The families that face acute economic hardships are the ones that are targeted the most by older men who can afford a hefty price tag. The families often sell their daughters due to extreme poverty without the girl’s consent.
We as a society have failed to deliver and have not been able to stop this madness that is destroying the lives of many young girls around us. Unfortunately, our leaders are sleeping and are completely ignorant towards the fact that in Pakistan laws are made bills are passed, but there is no implementation to safeguard the rights of an ordinary man or a woman. If the state does not allow you to vote until you are eighteen how can it not punish parents that force their girls as little as seven years old to enter into a matrimony.