IHC declares underage marriages illegal


In a landmark move, the Islamabad High Court has declared marriages of individuals under the age of 18 illegal.

The high court in its order clarified that marriages of individuals under the age of 18 will be illegal irrespective of whether they take place out of free will or the minors are married off by the consent of their parents.  

Justice Babar Sattar, in the 56-page judgment, stated: “A child is defined as a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. A child is required to be placed in somebody’s care whether it is a parent or guardian or other caregiver appointed on behalf of the state. Complete agency t o grant informed consent for purposes of entering into contract, including, inter alia, a marriage contract cannot be attributed to such child.”

Citing legal precedent that children cannot enter into contracts, any marriage they enter into is void ab initio, he said.

The decision came in a written order issued on the plea of a woman seeking the recovery of her 16-year-old daughter who was allegedly kidnapped and forcibly wed in May 2021.

In his order, Justice Sattar said that the minimum age of marriage lacked the 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.

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