PESHAWAR: A study published last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealed that child marriage in Pakistan is linked to increased spousal violence and extreme controlling behaviour among husbands.
This study called for federal intervention against the early marriage of females along with increased awareness surrounding the heightened risk of spouse violence against child wives. Child marriage is defined as marriage under the age of 18 by international standards.
The study analysed national data from the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2012-2013 of married women between the ages of 15 and 24. Of this group, nearly half (47.8%) were married prior to the age of 18. Approximately one-third of these women had endured spousal violence and controlling behaviour from their husbands.
Child marriage, as compared to adult marriage, was learned to be significantly associated with increased occurrences of violent husband behaviour, both physically and emotionally. Last year, the Council of Islamic Ideology confirmed its stance that a child is ready for marriage once he or she has reached puberty.
Critics of Pakistan’s legislature allowing females under the age of 18 to be married cite husband violence as well as loss of educational and consequent economic opportunities as reasons females should not marry before the age of 18. The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) firmly maintains that the legal, national marrying age should be 18 for both men and women.
NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz told The Express Tribune, “NCSW opposes early age marriages for a number of reasons including adverse effects on reproductive health, violation of bodily rights and increase in domestic and other kinds of violence. It is a constitutional right of every girl to get education. NCSW believes that biological maturity does not establish adulthood and if a girl is considered to be an adult at 18 years of age in order to vote, get a driver’s licence, or be eligible for CNIC, the same criteria should be applied for the age of marriage.”
Last year, Sindh and Punjab assemblies both passed resolutions making marriage illegal prior to 18 years of age. At the national level, Child Marriage Restraint Act dating from 1929 states that no male under 18 and no female under 16 may be legally married. However, the Child Marriage Restraint Act does not accord with the November 2014 UN decree signed by 116 countries setting an international prohibition on child marriage.
Pakistan signed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), also known as a prototypical international women’s bill of rights, in March 1996.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.
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