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IHC Declares Marriages Under-18 as ‘Unlawful’

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Justice Babar Sattar says individuals under 18 cannot be married off or wed of their own choice until they are considered legal adults

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday declared that all marriages contracted while either individual is under 18 are illegal, even if they claim that they have married of their own free will.

In a written order issued on the plea of a woman seeking the recovery of her 16-year-old daughter who she alleged that been kidnapped and forcibly wed in May 2021, Justice Babar Sattar said that children under 18 cannot get married of their own free will or be married off by their parents. Citing legal precedent that children cannot enter into contracts, any marriage they enter into is void ab initio, he said.

During proceedings, the 16-year-old girl had submitted testimony that she had not been abducted and married her husband of her own will. Justice Sattar said that the minimum age of marriage lacked necessary clarity in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, adding that the law should be placed before the Cabinet Division and Parliament for debate and amendment.

He also noted that physical changes that accompany puberty do not signify maturity, adding that all individuals were legally regarded as children until they achieved the age of majority. The judge directed the Station House Officer of Golra to shift the 16-year-old girl to the Darul Aman, adding that the petitioner should be allowed to meet her daughter there under the administrator’s supervision.

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