Hand in hand with UN Women, Ali’s finale had a young, school-aged girl dressed in a school uniform outfitted with bridal trappings, like borders and embroidery, walk the ramp. Adorned in the traditional jewels that, for generations, have marked one as a bride and with henna-painted hands, the image of this young girl was a shock to the system and went viral on social media.
Last year, Ali used his platform at bridal week to highlight the issue of forced marriage in Pakistan. This year, the tackling of the issue comes from the lack of improvement in the circumstances surrounding child marriage in Pakistan, even when there are countless organizations and groups fighting to change laws regarding it.
According to the UN Women’s official press release on the collaboration, Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) sets the legal age of marriage as 16 for women and 18 for men, but it is still estimated that more than 20 percent of women are married off before the age of 18 and three percent overall do not even cross the age of 15 before they get married. There have been efforts to increase the legal age of marriage from 16 to 18 for women across the nation, but this has faced criticism and resistance.
Jamshed Kazi, country representative for UN Women Pakistan, said: “It’s astounding how women aren’t allowed to drive or vote before the age of 18 and at the same time, they’re forced into this lifelong commitment way before they reach that age.”
The show was followed up by UN Women’s website directing people to head to www.thebridaluniform.com and urging those stopping by to learn more and sign a petition urging Pakistan’s Parliament to push the issue and have the marriage age for women to be upped to 18.
Proceeds from Ali Xeeshan’s collection will be donated to Pirbhat Women’s Development Society and Sujag Sansar, organizations striving to end violence against women and working against child marriages in Pakistan.