Underage victims: ‘To stop child marriages, state needs to step in’

Published: September 11, 2012
Child marriages accounted for 32 per cent of all marriages in the country from 1987 to 2005. PHOTO:FILE

Child marriages accounted for 32 per cent of all marriages in the country from 1987 to 2005. PHOTO:FILE


Marriage at an early age is a harsh reality for many young women, with dire repercussions for them, their children and the community. Still, according to UNICEF, child marriages accounted for 32 per cent of all marriages in the country from 1987 to 2005.

During a consultative meeting that was held to discuss the sensitive topic on Monday, it was shared that not much is expected to change in the next decade if the government does not take the issue seriously. Around 100 million girls are expected to enter into child marriage in the next decade, it was said.

Participants got together to map out the social, medical and legal work being done to decrease the prevalence of child marriages.

Qindeel Shujaat, legal adviser on human rights, said that while there are laws to prevent child marriages, the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 hasn’t been modified in 82 years. “The punishment for violating the law is a fine of Rs1,000, or one month imprisonment. If a marriage involving children takes place, the adults are punished, but the marriage is not dissolved,” she said. However, according to Shujaat, the law’s implementation is non-existentant.

Participants recommended that the minimum punishment be increased to two years and the fine to at least Rs100,000 to deter offenders. Penalties should be applicable on parents of both the bride and groom. Also, the minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls should be 18 years. While a 16 year-old girl is eligible for marriage, she cannot vote, drive or open a bank account. The groom is required by law to be 18 or above.

In addition to the legal framework and social implications, health consequences of child marriages were also highlighted. Girls are at a higher risk of birth-related morbidities such as fistula, post-partum haemorrhage, sepsis and hypertensive disorder. The underage mother and child’s psychological health is also adversely affected as the transition to motherhood is abrupt and premature.

“Young girls lose control over their bodies and lives. Patriarchy determines the girls’ fate and they are imprisoned in an adult life while still children,” said Uzma Tahir, policy manager Actionaid. She also stated that it was imperative to change the societal mind set that considers women the personal property of their male family members. “The difficulty in bringing about reforms is doubled as laws  are not conducive to change,” Tahir said.

Rutger’s WPF Country Director Qadeer Baig said, “We want to engage the media to raise awareness on early marriages and pregnancy and influence policy makers and government officials to bring about legislative change in the minimum age of marriage.”

The event was jointly arranged by Actionaid, Bedari and Plan International.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (6)

  • Sep 11, 2012 - 12:16PM

    The most important factor to counter/ utilize (whatever your perspective) is the issue of religion in debate of child marrriages. Child marriages are rampant in muslim countries and people use all sorts of ‘reasons’ for doing such acts. Islam does not allow child marriages and oft quoted case of Prophet Mhammad’s marriage to Hazrat Ayesha at the age of 9 is a complete fabrication.


  • Mj
    Sep 11, 2012 - 2:50PM

    The extent to which the apologists will go…


  • Sep 11, 2012 - 3:53PM



  • Sep 11, 2012 - 9:28PM

    the link mentioned in your comment suggests that holy book says:
    :24 – …. And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what ye do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise.

    the blogger’s emphasizes that in the marriage there is mutual Agreement
    “Now mutual agreement requires that both parties are mature enough to know what they are doing. Can a child possess this maturity”

    So Mr Postman. the whole theory of your’s and blogger’ s is based on the assumption that mutual agreements can be entered between the mature person only hence there can not be/ should not be a child marriage in Islam, Your assumption itself is incorrect therefore the conclusion too can nor be correct,
    All Mullahs and .even reputed Scholars insist that Ayesha got married at the age of 9 who is going to listen to you, . Unless moderate interpretation based on the changing values are accepted in the society child marriage will continue and the Islamic state like Pakistan can not legislate a law which forbids the child marriage( forget about its implementation)


  • jannas
    Sep 12, 2012 - 5:44PM

    Isn’t this a sunnah? I thought it was Islamic tradition. As long as these children and their spouses are Muslims, it should stand. Aisha lived a long and fruitful life apparently, even rode a camel and all.


  • Oct 1, 2012 - 10:07AM

    @p r sharma: ‘Your assumption itself is incorrect (that mutual agreements can be entered between the mature person) therefore the conclusion too can nor be correct,’

    Quran no where states what should be the age of marriage, it does give a hint and its very pertinent. The verse that I quoted to you is talking about ‘mutual agreement’ – I am not talking about assumption here. Mutual agreement can ONLY be done by mature parties. Quran discusses abut maturity in matters related to divorce and Orphans. Regarding your ‘assumption’ of legislation regarding age of marriage, Pakistani law requires the bride to be at least of 16 years.

    Child marriage is an abomnation, it needs to stop. Peace.Recommend

More in Pakistan