Child marriage: media asked to play role in creating awareness
ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: A media workshop to create awareness against child marriages and corporeal punishment was told that a bill against child marriages has been prepared which when passed can send violators to 10 years behind bars.
The print and electronic media were exhorted to play their role in creating awareness against child marriages and the damaging effects of corporeal punishment on the child.
Speakers at the two-day workshop organised by the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) in collaboration with Plan Pakistan which started here on Tuesday emphasized the need to check these ugly practices through publicity and persuasion as law alone could not effectively address such social evils.
The objective of the workshop is to improve the status of vulnerable children in accordance with recommendations enshrined in the UNCR and recommended by the UN Committee on CRC by sensitising media professionals to play their role in creating public awareness against these social evils.
Muhammad Hassan Mangi, Director, National Commission for Child Welfare and Development, Hafeezur Rehman, Vice Chairman NCCWD/Additional Secretary, Minister of Social Welfare and Special Education and Saqib Riaz, Chairman, Department of Mass Communication, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) talked about the role of media and its influence on general public.
Talking about the role of media in combating Child Marriages and Corporal Punishment, Saqib Riaz presented different suggestions for print and electronic media such as writing features, making documentaries, writing columns, through visual coverage of actual cases, talk shows and debates with public participation to highlight the issues.
He also stressed the need for the Ministry of Social Welfare to formulate a plan targeted to address this problem.
Zafarullah Khan, the facilitator, presented an overview of National Perspective on Child Marriages. He said that the youth forming 46 per cent of the population with its problems could not be ignored.
He talked about the reasons of child marriages and identified illiteracy as the major culprit. Another reason was lawlessness rampant in a feudal culture where it was common for the big landlords to force young marriages on the poor farmers. He said child marriages were the highest in Balochistan, followed by Sindh, NWFP and Punjab.
He said that the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education had prepared a draft child protection policy bill based on the recommendations of the committee on the rights of Children and Regional Violence against Children that is termed as National Child Protection Policy Bill according to which marrying a child was a punishable offence.
Adding he said PPC section 310 was amended to outlaw exchange marriages (Vani and Swara). Its violation carried a sentencing for a minimum three years and maximum 10 years imprisonment.
He also appreciated the role of NGOs that have established children network clubs where children are campaigning to create awareness about child rights and protection issues including child marriages.
Talking about the expected challenges, he said that these challenges were misinterpretation of religious beliefs, low level of education particularly in rural areas, enforcement of law defining the minimum age of marriage, and lack of understanding on negative consequences of child marriages.