Making the National Identity Card number of girls on marriage certificates mandatory would help in preventing child marriages.
This was said by panellists of a conference, “Impact of Girls’ Early Marriages”, at a local hotel here on Tuesday.
Civil society members stressed on making amendments to the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929, which they said was too ambiguous and soft in its punishment against offenders. They stated that the legal marriageable age for girls should be 18 years minimum and 21 years minimum for boys. They also suggested extending imprisonment to two years and a fine of at least Rs100,000 for people who violate the law.
World Population Foundation Country Head Qadeer Baig said about 60% of “early marriages” with victims aged between nine and 17 years take place in rural areas. He stressed on the need to include sexual reproductive health education in the curriculum, highlighting the need for parents to educate their children about it.
Religious scholar Dr Naeem Mushtaq said that the principal cause of early marriages in rural areas is to prevent boys from indulging in wrongful activities. Consequently, matches are sought quickly without any regard to the ages of the girls. Parents and victims of early child marriages came from across the country to share their experiences with conference participants.
Sunela, a resident of Rawalpindi, who was married to her cousin when she was just 14 said, “My parents did not let me complete my education. Consequently, when I got married I was unaware of household chores and marital sex.” She is now a divorced mother of two searching for a job but lacks the qualifications to find one.
Shazma, a resident of Mardan, was married to a 30-year-old man when she was 12, as a bartered transaction after her father was unable to repay a Rs10,000 loan. After suffering domestic abuse for five years, she bitterly relocated to her childhood home when her husband died.
“I have no life, no reason to continue living in this world, thanks to my parents who have destroyed my life.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.