The burden of overpopulation does not only create problems in the job market and other sectors, but also adds to an unsafe law and order situation. These views were shared by experts who believed that Pakistan could counter many of its problems, especially the rate of crime, by controlling its population.
At a seminar on ‘Adolescent Pregnancy’, organised by the Sindh population department on Friday, the speakers said that Pakistan was a signatory to an international agreement which stipulates that a girl below the age of 18 years cannot be married. The country’s law, however, allows a 16-year-old girl to enter marriage.
Officials and health experts agreed that multiple issues - such as crime, water shortage, illiteracy, unrest and shortage of food - could not be resolved until and unless the growth of population was controlled.
“Marriage is a happy moment for a woman, not a girl,” said Shrutidhar Tripathi of the United Nations Population Fund, adding that teenage marriages had created several issues in developing states.
Sindh Population Minister Syed Ali Mardan Shah stressed that population growth was a serious issue in Pakistan. “We all have to work together to overcome this challenge. Our department is committed to working day and night and I believe we’ll be able to make a difference soon, at least in Sindh,” he said.
The department’s secretary, Muhammad Saleem Raza, was in agreement and said that the department will educate girls about early marriages so that they were more aware.
Talking about the consequences of the population explosion, the additional secretary Syed Ashfaq Ali Shah said that despite the lower birth rate in Sindh, there were many issues that the government had to tackle. “The birth rate which was 6.3 per cent in 1970 is now down to 3.6 per cent but it is still high compared to developed states - this is because of early marriages.”
Problems in the making
“Only 35 per cent of the population in Pakistan uses methods of contraception. The percentage in Bangladesh is even better than ours at 56 per cent,” he said.
Highlighting the affects on a teenage mother and her child, Dr Irshad Shaikh said that safe and clean births was another serious issue which women in Pakistan were facing.
“We are destroying our youth. Early marriages also increase crime and other social problems - we need to look at the basic issues and commit to overcoming these problems,” Dr Yasmeen Abbasi said.
In Dr Ayoob Shaikh’s opinion, early marriages should be banned like the government had imposed bans on drugs. “It is a curse,” said Dr Shaikh, adding that normal deliveries were not common in rural areas and other cities of Sindh. “This is an issue which has crippled our women and the government needs pay attention to it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.