Child marriage is a wide spread phenomenon in Pakistan. UNICEF Innocent i Research Center has mentioned that 37 per cent of Pakistani women get married before reaching the age of 18 years. This is an overall ratio. The trend is more visible in South Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.
Early age marriages hamper the girls from making their own informed choice to enter into one of the most crucial relationships of their lives. It burdens them with responsibilities of marital life at a time when they should be going to school or playing games. In most of the cases, these girls are married to persons much older than them. This creates a very odd power equation. The girl is young, uneducated and not aware of her rights, while the man is experienced, often has some education and is aware of how to manipulate things. Such young girls are treated like animals through coercive use of power, and subjected to violence and abuse. Lack of awareness about reproductive rights, decision about and information of contraceptives is often lacking, which results in teenage pregnancies and large size families.
In Pakistan, one woman dies in every 20 minutes during childbirth and the major cause of the high maternal mortality ratio 276 So far the issue of early child marriages remains unaddressed and no measures are taken by the state to implement the law, nor has the civil society or UN made any substantial efforts to condemn the act and take action against this heinous practice. However, a law “Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929” to discourage child marriages, but the law, as is obvious from the title of the law, was enacted 82 years ago during British Raj, and has not been modified since then. It discriminates between boys and girls as it sets the marriageable age for boys at 18 years, while that for girls at 16 years. Furthermore, the punishment for violating this law is a fine of Rs 1000 (US $ 11), or one month imprisonment. Furthermore, if a marriage involving young children takes place, the adults who agreed to the marriage and arranged it are punished, but the marriage does not stand dissolved.
I hope Government of Pakistan and Human Rights Organizations take this vicious crime more seriously so that the future of our coming generation must be secure.
per 100,000 live births is child marriage.