MULTAN, Pakistan (AFP) - Police have arrested six people accused of arranging the marriage of a seven-year-old boy and six-year-old girl in eastern Pakistan, officials said on Saturday (Feb 6).
The fathers of both children, the cleric performing the ceremony, and three witnesses were charged under the Child Marriage Restraint Act on Saturday after being arrested in Punjab province on Friday, senior police official Saifullah Khan told AFP.
They face six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of 50,000 rupees (S$675).
Local police chief Mehr Riaz Hussain said the accused have denied that the wedding took place, but police have it on video.
Pakistani lawmakers last month withdrew a proposal to impose harsher penalties on those who arrange child marriages after it was scuttled by a religious body which branded it "blasphemous" and against Islam.
The proposal, which would also have raised the legal age of marriages for females from 16 to 18, called for "rigorous" punishment of up to two years in prison for those who organise child marriages, still common in some parts of Pakistan.
The original law stipulates the age of marriage to be 16 for women and 18 for men but Pakistani religious scholars at the Council of Islamic Ideology, believe it is not in accordance with Islamic teachings.
They say there is no specific age limit for marriage in Sharia as an individual can marry when he or she reaches puberty and puberty cannot be defined by age. Rights activists strongly criticised the rejection of the bill.