Child marriages in Pakistan relate to tradition, culture and customary practices and it’s high time for the issue to be addressed. In November 2018, it was estimated that 21% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.
A 2018 report by the University of Birmingham suggests that an estimated 1,000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductors every year in Pakistan.
Lawyer Amarnath Motumal of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan informs that 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted every month and are forcibly converted.
Youngest Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai, recently spoke up about the aforementioned issues in the country.
The 21-year-old was responding to a tweet aimed at her, which inquired, “Hey Malala, a lot has been written about the Hindu girls who were kidnapped in Pakistan. What are your thoughts on the persecution of minority religions around the world?”
While many thought Malala would not reply, she posted a video sharing her thoughts on the issue.
“I would like to say two things about this,” the Oxford graduate shared. “Firstly, child marriages are wrong. No girl under the age of 18 should get married. It should be a personal choice of that girl and she should be able to first complete her education.”
She added, “If she is not interested and says no to marriage then she cannot be forced. I strongly condemn any incident where girls are forced to get married.”
Malala also talked about a case of alleged forced conversion of Hindu girls in Daharki taluka of Sindh’s Ghotki district.
“It should be a personal choice and no one – specially a child shouldn’t be forced to accept any faith or convert to any other religion out of will,” she asserted. “Whether it’s in Pakistan where Hindu girls are being targeted or Muslim girls in Myanmar or Christian girls in Sri Lanka – I mean in any part of the world I think it’s completely wrong and we should strongly stand against it.”
In 2017, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), up to 3% of Pakistani girls are married before the age of 15 years and 21% are married before they turn 18. These statistics are based on the findings of the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) for 2012 and 2013.
When such a large number of girls are married in their childhood, it results in high rates of maternal and child mortality and this is one of the key reasons that Pakistan’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) still stands at 276 per 100,000 live births and the country’s newborn mortality rate is at 55 per 1,000 live births.
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