Child Marriages in Pakistan: Institutional And Policy Landscape

Child Marriages in Pakistan: Institutional And Policy Landscape
Child rights fall through the cracks of fragmented institutional mandates and dispersed policy focus at both federal and provincial levels. Post 18th Amendment, the child as a subject does not fall in the purview of federal government for legislation and policy formulation.

The National Assembly has a SDGs task force of parliamentarians that has created a special committee on child rights. It has no administrative mandate. This committee is undertaking briefing from donors on the issue of child rights. It is part of consultations and briefings being held with and among the members of provincial assembly; and its members, in their individual capacity, are leading advocacy with civil society at both the national and provincial level on the issue of child rights, inclusive of child marriage.  However, it has not moved any resolution at the NA.

The Ministry of Human Rights (MOHR), at the federal level, is the custodian for international convention-based reporting, as well as awareness raising through four provincial directorates. It has two dedicated commissions at the federal level, having respective policy focus on child rights, that work independent to each other.


Federal Institutional Setup & Policy focus on Child Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC)
The Federal Government has constituted the National Commission on the Rights of Child on February 28, 2020 in exercise of powers conferred by Section 3(1) of the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017 (XXXII of 2017)

National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD)[1] Mandated to coordinate, monitor & facilitate reporting on implementation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other national/ international obligations. It is expected that NCRC once formed will subsume it.
Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman)'s Secretariat
Children’s Complaints Office at federal & provincial level. It is headed by National Commissioner for Children & Provincial Commissioners. It works as a cell that has been formed with the UNICEF support. It is focused to promote and protect the rights of the children in Pakistan; and promote accountability in public institutions with regard to children’s rights

Civil society in Pakistan has upheld the cause to ensure that a child and especially girl children are taken as legitimate right holders as per the Constitution, and its linked international commitments, helping to identify children-focused human rights violation.  Most violations are identified to help children access their right of education and protection especially against child sexual abuse, child labour, and juvenile justice. However, the fact remains that the canvass of child rights and its corresponding protection mechanism is much wider. It needs to integrate focus on child marriage which impacts life – from voice and agency to the future of a girl child. The following policies at federal level mention and/or connect to child rights:


Federal Policies covering child as subject and/or child rights
1.      NPA child 2006

2.      Draft National Child Protection Policy 2009

3.      National Policy and Plan of Action to Combat Child Labour 2000.

4.      National Education Policy 2009 .

5.      The National Policy and Plan of Action on Human Trafficking 2005,

6.      National Health Policy 2009,

7.      National Youth Policy 2009,

8.      National Policy and Plan of Action to combat Bonded Labour in Pakistan,

9.      National Policy Guidelines on Vulnerable Groups in Disasters


Federal Policies on Child Rights and Focus
Policies Focus Operationalization
National Plan of Action on Children 2006 (NPA) The plan was prepared as response to ICCR commitments. It sets targets for improvements in health, quality education, protection and elimination of commercial sexual exploitation. The primary responsibility of implementation of the NPA lies with sectoral ministries & role of MOHR is reporting specific coordination, survival, development, and protection of children. ·  political commitment,

·  raising awareness,

·  capacity building,

·  advocacy,

·  networking,

·  social mobilization,

·  enhanced allocation of resources,

·  setting up &  strengthening functional structures and systems
Draft National Child Protection Policy 2009 It was drafted focusing child protection & welfare. Post 18th Amendment it has not been co-opted by provinces. Punjab is in the process of finalizing a provincial draft with the UNICEF support. Through provincial directorates
Children’s Complaints Office in the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman)'s Secretariat Promote and protect the rights of the children in Pakistan and promote accountability in public institutions with regard to children’s rights It has office of national commissioner for Children & provincial presence as well.


At the federal or provincial level there has not been a dedicated ministerial setup on child rights. Consequently, issues like child rights or child marriages are less analysed and debated in mainstream social development policy as a cross cutting or connecting issue. These have been kept alive by international development partners with the support of national civil society and practitioners. However, social media is keeping rights-based issues more at the forefront.

Post the 18th Amendment in 2010, child rights are now a provincial subject. Provincially, the subject of child right is administered by the Social Welfare and/or Women Development Departments. Provincial child rights legislations focus on protection of child rights, child sexual abuse and child labour but per-se do not state child marriage as a focus area.


Provincial Institutional Setup & Policy focus on Child Rights
Province Provincial Department Child Right Authority Law Policy
Punjab Home Punjab Child Protection & Welfare Bureau[2] The Punjab destitute & neglected Children Act 2004; Amended 2017 Child protection policy under draft, as coordinated by P&D Department


HR Policy 2018 has a dedicated chapter on Child rights. Responsibilities and focus is cross Departmental but without any action plan. It recognizes child marriage at statement level.


The women Rights chapter of HR policy 2018 focuses on to eliminate discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child.


The Planning & Development Department in Punjab[3] in collaboration with UNICEF has established Child Protection Cell against a Multi Year Work Plan as well as to coordinate overall implementation of Child Protection Work Plan

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Social welfare, special education, Women Development, Zakat & Usher  Department KP Child Protection & Welfare Commission[4] (KP-CPWC) The KP child protection & welfare Act 2010; Amended 2016 HR Policy 2018 has a dedicated chapter on Child rights. Responsibilities and focus are cross Departmental but without any action plan.


The KP-CPWC recognizes child marriage under harmful practices and has integrated it in its district level outreach; and saved 144 children from marriage
Sindh Social Welfare  Provincial Commission for Child Welfare and Development (PCCWD)

The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act 2011 No dedicated policy but list of child protection activities & project are cited[5]
Balochistan Social welfare, special education, Literacy/non-Formal education; Human Rights Department Child Protection Cell[6] The Balochistan Child Protection Act 2016 No dedicated policy but cell has its focus


At both national and provincial level, the legally mandated Child Protection Authorities/commissions are not administratively autonomous to function as a primary coordination and/or oversight mechanism. They are institutionally attached to the MOHR at the federal and provincial level. Furthermore, there are provincial directorates of human rights reporting to MOHR and offices of Wafaqi Mohtasib that also extend coverage on issues of child rights excluding child marriages. Health and education department also focus on child rights as per their specialized mandate. Provincially, child right cells in the Planning Department and/or provincial SDG task forces/committees are also formed. In absence of a dedicated administrative department at the provincial level, donors and international partners support parts of child rights (as per their own development mandate) that further fragment the policy focus.



[1] Advisory body to the government. It was established on 16th December 1979 being effective from 1st January 1980, and has been amended from time to time. Post devolution it was transferred to the Capital Administration & Development Division to function at the ICT level. It is currently which is placed with the Ministry of Human Rights