Bill proposing mandatory marriage at 18 years not tabled in Sindh Assembly yet

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Claim: Parents in Sindh will now be obligated to marry off their children once they turn 18 under the new legislation.
Fact: The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021 is yet to be cleared by the CII and the provincial government’s law department before being officially tabled, debated upon, and voted on in the Sindh Assembly.

On 24 May, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) lawmaker Syed Abdul Rasheed submitted a draft of his proposed legislation titled “The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021”, or the Bill.

Rasheed submitted the draft Bill to the Sindh Assembly Secretariat as a private member. There was no mention of support from either his party or others in the provincial assembly.

Copy of the draft bill sent to Soch Fact Check by Rasheed

A notice was subsequently issued and Pakistan’s constitutional body on religious affairs, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) as well as the Sindh government’s Law, Parliamentary Affairs & Criminal Prosecution Department, are required to ratify it before the Bill is tabled and debated upon in the Sindh Assembly.

Panicked youth of Sindh

On 26 May, a flurry of news reports on mainstream and social media emerged, announcing Rasheed’s move in the Sindh Assembly, with different claims, ranging from the Bill being tabled, passed, and/or made into law.

Soch Fact Check investigated these media reports and found the claims to be false or misleading.

Some news outlets, including some foreign ones, asserted that the Bill was proposed by the Sindh Assembly and/or the government of Pakistan. A few of them altogether skipped mentioning Rasheed’s name or the party he’s affiliated with.

Others implied that the PPP-led Sindh government was working on and had proposed the Bill.

It’s necessary to clarify that the Bill was not proposed by the PPP, the ruling party of Sindh; therefore, it is factually incorrect to report that the Sindh government or Sindh Assembly put forward the Bill.

According to the Sindh Assembly website, a bill may be submitted by the government, as in the ruling party, or an Opposition party. A private member or committee may also introduce a bill. Proposed legislation may be subject to some conditions as well.

So far, a draft of The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021 has been prepared and submitted to the Sindh Assembly Secretariat. Once the CII and the provincial law department have ratified it; it would be officially tabled in the provincial assembly. Then lawmakers would debate on its pros and cons before voting. However, since neither of the aforementioned bodies has made a decision, the Bill has not been tabled yet which means that it’s incorrect to claim that it has been signed into law.

ProPakistani took the claim further, saying the Bill “reportedly won the approval of numerous members of the Sindh Assembly” and that the “initial implementation phase is expected to be added to the federal pipeline”. Both of these claims stand to be false since the bill has neither been ratified by the CII or the law department nor tabled in the provincial assembly yet.

Interestingly, Soch Fact Check cross-checked the reports published by Pro Pakistani, Global Village Space, MM News, and Developing Pakistan and found that they were 83%, 100%, 100%, and 100% plagiarized, respectively, while AI-based writing and editing assistant Grammarly flagged “significant plagiarism” in all of the aforementioned stories.

Many people on social media, such as Suraksha Dodai, a popular Twitter account with more than 8,000 followers, shared an image from Pakistan Tribune that claimed that the Bill has been tabled in the Sindh Assembly. Similarly, blogger-run community platform FrontPagepk went as far as to claim that “parents will be fined for delaying the marriage of their 18-years-old children”.

These claims were also spread widely through Indian media websites. New Delhi-based FLA News claimed that “the draft bill states that marriages of people below the age of 18 should be allowed to prevent malpractices” and that “if the bill is approved, juvenile marriage could become mandatory in Pakistan”.

Both claims are false; there has been no proposal in the bill to allow marriages of people below the age of 18 nor is the entire Pakistan the bill’s jurisdiction. It is, in fact, Sindh.

Rasheed, the MPA from the Karachi South-II (PS-108) constituency who submitted the draft, told Soch Fact Check, “There’s a lawmaking process and a notice has been issued” in this regard,” he said. “I have obtained fatwas [or Islamic decrees] for it as well.”

He further explained that since this is from “an Islamic point of view, the Bill will be sent to the CII and then it will be sent to the law department.” ― the Sindh government’s Law, Parliamentary Affairs & Criminal Prosecution Department.

Rasheed added, “It has not been tabled yet either but I have only followed the process,” he stated, adding that “Islam dictates the age of marriage to be puberty” and that the religion “orders making convenient the process of nikkah”.

Conclusion: News reports about JI lawmaker Syed Abdul Rasheed’s draft bill are misleading. Rasheed submitted The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021, in the Sindh Assembly Secretariat as a private member. The bill has not been cleared by the CII and the provincial law department yet. If it is cleared, it will be tabled in the Sindh Assembly and provincial lawmakers will debate and vote on it.

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