Child marriage in Pakistan

Published: January 2, 2013

One obvious thing that girls married young miss out on is education. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

According to a recent report, 24 per cent of girls married under the age of 18 worldwide last year were from rural Pakistan, whereas 18 per cent were from the country’s urban areas. The issue of child marriage raises several health concerns for young girls, some of which include pregnancy complications, health risks for babies born to young mothers and the risk of death. The report said that girls pregnant under the age of 15 have a five times greater chance of dying compared with girls pregnant in their 20s. Early marriage can also thwart personal development and growth as a child constantly undergoes physical, mental and emotional changes before reaching adulthood. In Pakistan, young girls are sometimes married off to older men, which poses the risk that the girls might become conditioned to acting submissive towards their older male counterparts. This can also stunt their personality development.

One obvious thing that girls married young miss out on is education. At a seminar recently held on the issue, it was reported that girls married young have more chances of remaining poor than those who marry later. Moreover, girls should first be equipped with at least basic education so that they have something to rely on should a spouse end the marriage or pass away.

While the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 says that the police cannot intervene directly in underage marriage, implying that Sharia law is to be consulted, the government needs to intervene. Child marriage should be prohibited and the legal age of marriage should be raised from 16 to 18. Pakistan is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children which defines child marriage below the age of 18; yet, the country allows marriages at age 16. The civil society also needs to work towards eradicating certain false assumptions in our culture, such as that religion sanctions child marriage. This seminar is a step in the positive direction but we hope that our lawmakers also take notice and amend child marriage laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2013.

Reader Comments (6)

  • Ricky
    Jan 3, 2013 - 2:11AM

    This is nothing new in Pakistan. Everybody knows about it but nobody does anything. The problem is mullah use religion as a tool against women and the elected govts are weak. The army dictators only want to perpetuate their power and not interested in plight of women or poor.

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  • Sidrah
    Jan 3, 2013 - 11:37AM

    BUT religion does sanction child marriage. As per Sharia law you cannot stop parents from marrying their daughters at young ages.

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  • S.Haque
    Jan 3, 2013 - 5:28PM

    Yes Sidrah, religion does sanction child marriage, and that is the main reason civilized countries do not enforce ‘Sharia’ on their citizens. Children; girls and boys have rights in those societies, and no one is allowed to molest girl children just to follow the examples of 14th century perverted baddoos.Recommend

  • Jan 3, 2013 - 10:16PM

    Over 40% of all child marriages in the world take place in India, making it the child marriage capital of the world. Nearly half of all the Indian marriages involve a child bride, ranking it at number 11 among 68 nations where child marriages are reported. Child marriages account for nearly a quarter of all marriages in Pakistan, according to UNICEF.

    A study, prepared by the Population Council of India, concluded that child marriage continues to be rampant in India with nearly one-fifth of Indian women being married off before turning 15 and around 50 per cent before reaching the legal marriageable age.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/06/india-leads-world-in-child-marriages.html

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  • Ricky
    Jan 4, 2013 - 9:33PM

    @Riaz Haq: “Over 40% of all child marriages in the world take place in India, making it the child marriage capital of the world. Nearly half of all the Indian marriages involve a child bride, ranking it at number 11 among 68 nations”
    The above statement does not make sense to me. When over 40% of all child marriages in the world are in India and half of all Indian marriages have child bride, then how could it be only 11 among 68 countries? Perhaps I am not very smart to understand these pradoxical numbers.

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  • Logic
    Jan 7, 2013 - 7:17AM

    …. and some people want to impose their own will on when others should get married. Let adults as defined by the religion 97% of us follow marry if they wish to. Don’t limit their rights as enshrined in the Sharia just because some think 18 is being an adult.

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