Whenever we talk about child marriage, we refer to the practice in which males and females are married before reaching a certain age of adulthood. In most parts of the world, Child marriage is seen as immoral and unlawful. The age of adulthood varies in different parts of the world. According to the Punjab child marriage restrainment act of 2015, the minimum age for girls to marry is 16 and for boys, it is 18. In Pakistan, it is illegal to marry before the age of adulthood as defined by the government. It is a punishable crime yet the practice is still widespread.
The major reason why these existent laws do not restrict child marriage is the fact that very little action is taken against offenders. Child marriage adversely affects the psychological wellbeing of children. It is neither good for the parents and the children alike. At the age of marriage, parents are not mature enough to handle such a complex relationship. They are also not mentally capable to raise a child. In most of the cases, they lack the ability to earn and provide for the livelihood of the child. In some cases, the bride and groom lack the ability to reproduce as their reproductive organs had still not matured. In such cases, the reproductive capabilities of the bride and groom are also compromised.
Child marriage is prevalent in rural areas of Pakistan. According to a report by WHO, 21 percent of the girls in Pakistan get married under the age of 18. A more disturbing finding of WHO is that 3 percent of the girls get married even before the age of 15. Child marriage is also heavily linked with forced marriages. This is mostly the case with girls as they are forced to marry at an early age. Child marriage increases the risks of marital rapes, domestic violence, and early pregnancy. Due to child marriages, most of the girls drop out of school and find very few economic activities. The reason why child marriage is prevalent in rural areas is that there is a lack of education and awareness in these areas.
An unfortunate fact regarding child marriage is that it is one of the leading causes of death among girls aged fifteen to nineteen. In addition, a very high ratio of maternal death is linked to child marriage. Therefore, it is safe to say that child marriage puts the female under considerable physical threat. It has been a traditional practice in Pakistan. Patriarchal customs and poverty play a great role in child marriages.
Child marriage has been around in Pakistan for quite a long time. It is high time now that we should act collectively towards its eradication. Non-governmental organizations and many activists have raised their voices against child marriage. However, their effort had mostly gone to waste as child marriage is still prevalent in rural areas of Pakistan. The need of the hour is proper legislation and action against offenders. The law against child marriage is of no use if it is not implemented. There should be a government level intervention in this case. A countrywide awareness drive should be conducted regularly. Actions should also be taken against marriage without consent. Females should be assured of proper government protection in case they chose to deny any marriage proposal. They should be encouraged to report forced marriage cases. It is however worthwhile noting that any action against child marriage would only be effective for a certain time period. A long term action plan should address the need to incorporate gender equality in Pakistan. The rural areas of Pakistan are governed by patriarchal family systems. As a nation, we should work together to spread awareness against it. Social and electronic media can be very useful in tackling this situation from the root cause. Media outlets should conduct advertisement drives to spread awareness against child marriage. Brands that operate in Pakistan should incorporate it into their marketing strategy. They should take it up as a part of corporate social responsibility and spread awareness through their advertisements, brandings, and packaging.
The Pakistani government is indeed facing numerous challenges. Yet it is important to focus on the rights of women. Females have little or no say to choose their spouse. United Nations has drafted a sustainable development goal under which all the UN member countries have pledged to end child marriages by the year 2030. Currently, around the world, child marriage takes place every two seconds. Pakistan is one of the UN member countries that have pledged to eradicate child marriage. It is therefore high time that plans against child marriages should be made and implemented. Children around the world and Pakistan should no longer wait for this menace to end as it is ruining their lives every day.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.