42% of underage married girls from Pakistan

Published: January 2, 2013
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In families with limited resources, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for a daughter’s future. PHOTO: FILE

In families with limited resources, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for a daughter’s future. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: More than 60 million girls around the world were married under the age of 18 last year, out of which 24% were from rural Pakistan and 18% from urban areas, said Blue Veins Programme Coordinator Qamar Naseem at a seminar.

Civil society organisations came together on Tuesday to highlight the issue of child marriages and the role of Union Councils in this regard. The seminar was held under the umbrella of Action Aid in collaboration with Blue Veins and Citizen Rights and Sustainable Development (CRSD).

Naseem added that if child marriages continue at this rate, an additional 100 million underage girls will be married within the next decade. “That is 25,000 new child brides every day for the next 10 years,” he said.

A large number of civil society members including lawyers, government officials, teachers and members of non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations attended the seminar.

Poverty plays a central role in causing and perpetuating early marriage. “Poor families often have few resources to support healthy alternatives for girls, such as giving them proper education,” he added.

Idress Kamal

In families with limited resources, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for a daughter’s future. However, girls who marry young have more chances of remaining poor.

Early marriage thwarts a girl’s chances of acquiring education, endangers her health and cuts short her personal growth and development, participants said.

The risk of death for pregnant girls under the age of 15 is five times higher than for women in their twenties. Taken together, the costs of this practice are too high to be ignored. Societies cannot progress when the common practice of marriage dooms them to a life of poverty,” he said.

A religious scholar Maulana Ghousul Kabir expressed his views about early marriages in light of Islam. He said that Islamic law does not sanction child marriages and urged religious clerics to come forward and clear the ‘myth’ that surrounds this issue.

During the session, child marriage survivors also shared their testimonies with the participants and helped them understand how the issue reduces women empowerment.

CRSD Director Idress Kamal said that child marriage has affected many women. “The problem with early marriages is that the bride is immature herself. If she gets pregnant, she is usually underweight and malnourished. Her pregnancy causes many complications, and health risks for the babies in these cases are also high,” he said.

“If a girl is married off at an age when she herself should be playing with dolls, how can she handle a baby or go through delivery?” he questioned.

An Action Aid member, Alia Rasheed, said that gender discrimination is the main reason behind marrying daughters at an early age. “While birth of sons is celebrated, daughters are often seen as burdens.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Question
    Jan 2, 2013 - 1:49PM

    What do they mean by early age, which age do they call fine?

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  • Zia Bacha
    Jan 2, 2013 - 1:56PM

    I think these figures are on sample basis and may not be considered as facts. further, as per delayed marriages are creating social problems in the society so we should encourage marriages between 15-20 years.

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  • Usman
    Jan 2, 2013 - 2:24PM

    According to Islam and Sunnah, anyone over the age of 9 is allowed to get married. Early marriage is recommended for both males and females. This rids the society of many evils like rape and adultery.

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  • IZ
    Jan 2, 2013 - 2:36PM

    For the sake of clarity its worth pointing out:
    1. The definition of Child Marriage used in the article above is marriage below the age of 18. According to Pakistani law, girls can marry legally at age 16.

    Incidentally in the USA girls can marry at the age of 18 without parental consent and with consent of their guardians below the age of 18. It varys state by state but most states allow 15 or 16 year olds to marry. The state of New England allows marriage after the age of 13.

    The way the article is written, it implies that 60 million girls got married in 2012 when it should read that there was a total of 60 million girls below the age of 18 living in a state of marriage around the world by the end of 2012. Similarly the 25,000 child brides per day is for global child marriages not for Pakistan alone.

    I don’t know the source of the figures quoted, but I suspect the reporter has again misquoted or not correctly implied that 40% of the world’s ‘child brides’ live in Pakistan. This is highly unlikely since according to the UNICEF State of the World’s Children 2012 report 47% of Indian girls are married by the age of 18 and 66% of girls in Bangladesh are married by 18 (making it the country with the 3rd highest girl child marriage prevalence rate in the world. In 2007 for example, 1/3rd of all child-brides were in India.

    However its worth noting that after a major campaign launched by the Indian government to combat child-marriage there was been a significant change in child marriage patterns, with numbers marrying below the age of 15 falling drastically and numbers marrying in the 15-18 bracket rising. This is why the definition of what a child-bride is is important. It would be worth knowing the break-up for figures of child brides marrying below the age of 16 and the numbers between 16 to 18 for Pakistan as well.

    I don’t want to diminish the very real issue of child marriage, I’m only pointing these things out because of the lack of clarity and questionable assertions in the article.

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  • aliza rehman
    Jan 2, 2013 - 4:22PM

    I am one of them but now divorced

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  • Jan 2, 2013 - 4:56PM

    Flawed standards! At one end most civilized nations allow the sexual relations of teenagers and at other end they discourage marriage of those teenagers. Are these standards are meant for the Muslim world specifically and developing nations generally?
    However, I back the marriage at the age of 20+ for girls.

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  • Mj
    Jan 2, 2013 - 5:18PM

    @Zia Bacha:
    A religious person would argue that, ideally, a girl should get married by the age of 9, following a historical precedent. Would you be fine with marriages at such an early age?

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  • Mj
    Jan 2, 2013 - 6:41PM

    @Usman:

    For your consideration: A series of photographs by Stephanie Sinclair depicting victims of child marriages. Perhaps putting a face on the victims of this brutal and ancient custom might help to evoke some form of empathy for the poor girls.

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  • Logic
    Jan 3, 2013 - 1:33AM

    The will of the people is clear by statistics you quote.

    Re-define underage.

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  • Jan 3, 2013 - 5:40AM

    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.

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

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  • Diddly poo
    Jan 3, 2013 - 11:50AM

    @Ammar:
    And for boys?…. I love how the misogynistic culture in our country focuses on one sole purpose for girls: marriage and babies. The idea of girls doing anything for themselves is so foreign even in 2013 for most people in Pakistan. No wonder the country is where it is.

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  • Pakistani
    Jan 6, 2013 - 1:15AM

    The minimum age for marriage should be 20 years for both men and women.

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