Prevalence of Child Marriages in Pakistan – The Hidden Crime

Child Marriages are a huge issue in third world countries, especially in Pakistan. There have been several laws made in Pakistan against it.

Child Marriages is one of the heinous crimes that has been practiced all over the world especially in third world countries. This crime has been practiced since old times. In some countries, child marriages are held when a child turns 5 or above. Some children are handed to older spouses in the name of honor before they reach the age of 18.

In Asia, this practice is commonly followed in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In rare cases, boys are also affected by this practice but most of all girls suffer from this evil act. According to a 2020 UNICEF report, 21% of girls in Pakistan get married before they even turn 18 while 3% get marry before they turn 15. The report further stated that Pakistan ranked in the sixth position in the world with the highest number of child marriages. The immature age of marriage is usually practiced in ruler areas and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Causes of Child Marriages in Pakistan:

Following are the three most common causes of Child Marriages in Pakistan:

  1. Child Marriage in the name of Culture and Religion:

In most of the ruler areas in Pakistan, the reason for child marriages is culture and religion. The people especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan strictly follow culture and religion but they might not be aware that religion allows it if only a child’s consent is involved. However, it is considered shameful or disrespectful to ask a child’s consent before snatching their youth and throwing them into the dark world.

  1. Mentally backward:

In most areas elderly people often think that marrying their ill-mannered son or daughter at a young age might make them a better person. However, these situations often lead to domestic violence because the spouse is used to the bad habits that cannot change after marriage and that leads to the assassination of either one of them.

Mentally backwardness also plays its role when the elders think that if they don’t follow the societal or cultural norms, they might be dishonored among the tribe. So just for the sake of monstrous practice, they marry their daughters and sons at a young age.

  1. Poverty:

Almost in 50% of places, parents usually marry off their daughters because of the huge dowry amount they get in return for their marriage. Older men either divorced or their second or third marriage opt for younger girls who are way too younger for them. They offer a great amount of money to the parents in return for their daughters, Parents being forced or selfish, act on this heinous slavery of their daughters. Less fortunate families are keen to lessen the financial burden on the family

Child marriages

Via India Today/Google

Effects of Child Marriage:

The effects of Child Marriage affect not only physical but mental harm. Girls face complications in their pregnancies and are unaware and have no knowledge about sexual and reproductive health. These complications and early pregnancy lead their infants and their own life at stake.

Child Marriage also affects the social and personal growth of a child. The child is unable to explore himself or herself to follow his/her dreams or ambitions. They are over-burdened with responsibilities at a young age and face domestic violence. These children often face several diseases such as psychological disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The other problem of our society is producing sons. If a girl doesn’t conceive in the early years of her marriage or didn’t produce a ‘son’, the blame is automatically directed at girls which leads to beating and domestic violence by their in-laws.

The right time of Marriage:

The right time of marriage is when a child is mentally and emotionally ready for it. When a daughter or sister is not married, society begins to buzz about it where father and brother trigger and consider themselves dishonored and disrespectful in the society.

In some urban areas of Pakistan, girls are married when they are mature enough to handle this big responsibility whereas, in many areas, girls are married when they reach a certain age limit. Girls are often married early to avoid the situation of sexual assault, premarital sex, or pre-marriage pregnancies.

Pakistani Laws on Child Marriage:

The Child Marriage Restraint 1929 Bill was first declared in 1927 in the Legislative Assembly when Quaid-e-Azam was a member of it. This bill was also passed by a Hindu, Rai Haridas. The opposition of that time opposed the bill and bought religion in between.

In recent times, the Child Marriage Amendment Bill 2019 was passed in the National Assembly by Ramesh Kumar as a Private Member’s Bill. Likewise before, the bill was opposed by many members of the Assembly. However, only Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was the only leader who stood with the bill unanimously.

The recent bill states that 18 years is the fixed minimum age for a lawful marriage. Members of the Assembly opposed the bill by saying that Islam doesn’t allow any particular age of marriage. The male guardian of the family can decide for their daughters and sons when and where to get them married.

Adequate Steps to Eradicate Child Marriages:

The foremost step is to consider child marriages a bizarre crime and a negative approach. The community as a whole should stop considering it a cultural or traditional norm. Because as long as people will consider it as the basic norm of society, it would be difficult to eradicate this slavery.

Secondly, the government should take a bold step and consider it a legal issue and propose a harsh punishment to stop this evil practice. Several programs should be designed to teach the decision-maker of the family, influencers, policymakers, and religious scholars about this disgraceful slavery.

It is high time to stop Child Marriage and stand against it as a whole community. The government should take rapid action and set an example by punishing the culprits with harsh punishment. We as an individual should raise our voice against this act around us. The birth of children especially daughters should be registered. The nikkah-khwan should play their part and stop this deed at the right time. Parents and the guardian should be provided the consultation session so that they can think for the betterment of their children.

By Abdul Sammad

Besides being an avid traveler, Abdul Sammad is a marketer, an author and a philanthropist. Sammad is an active contributor to many social and behavioral forums and online publications. When not writing, Sammad enjoys exploring the outdoors with friends and family.

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