The child bride

Published: January 13, 2019

Although the United States immigration system has historically sought to support family togetherness, it has been under the limelight for several porous policies and issues that have caused trouble to some individuals via rights’ violations. Recently highlighted was that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has inadvertently lent support to the existence of child marriages. This has been in the way of either older men in the US petitioning for minor girls to immigrate as spouses or fiancées, or vice versa, where families force a minor girl living in the US to marry an older man to facilitate his entry into the US. Pakistan is the second most frequent country from which such requests are filed. The situation presents an interesting paradigm for the lax marriage laws in Pakistan juxtaposed with lenient ones in the United States. Poignantly, an evaluation of the US immigration system needs to be made so as to discourage the child marriage phenomenon and block human rights violations. It is appalling that a developed country would lend a helping hand in such an immoral act.

Much like Pakistan where the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys yet they can easily be married off earlier, the US, too, allows for marriage prior to 18 with parental consent not differentiating between genders. The similarities in laws possibly contribute to early marriages in both countries. It would be counterintuitive to say rules governing US immigration need to be more stringent, but a review of its spousal immigration policy is due. Thorough investigations of legitimate marriages in good faith need to be carried out, which would exclude dishonest elements from entering their country. Marriage laws in the US may be lenient but in order to ensure the protection of its own citizens, the investigations would serve to benefit and that is very much so a duty of its law enforcement. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2019.

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