In this podcast, SuPWR researcher Mahnaz Shujrah speaks with Karachi-based lawyer Sara Malkani about the debate around child marriage in Pakistan.
Strongly supporting “the best interest of the child”, as stated in Section 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Sara Malkani takes the stance that the child marriage law cannot be seen in isolation. She argues that Pakistan’s socio-economic and cultural context needs to be considered when dealing with child marriage cases, and that the agency of a minor cannot be completely undermined. She also talks about the harsh reality of Pakistan’s legal system which criminalizes and regulates an adolescent’s sexual life and choices, something which goes against international practice. Malkani highlights the value of agency and how it must be considered, especially in cases of “self-arranged child marriages”. The law was meant to target forced marriages, yet they go unnoticed and unreported. Building upon the theory of “evolving capacities of children”, she argues that each case should judge based on facts, evidence, and most importantly, the capability and consent of the minor involved.
Sara Malkani is a lawyer and advocate based in Karachi. She practices in the District Court as well as the High Court. She is also the advisor for a human rights organization called Center for Reproductive Rights. Much of her work is centered around human rights, especially as it pertains to Child and Women rights. As a lawyer and an advocate, she has worked incessantly on adolescent sexual and reproductive rights, and child marriage as it relates to that.
Listen to the podcast
Read the full transcript of the discussion.