By Javeria Faizan
Child marriage, as the term suggests, is a matrimonial relationship between a person who is still considered minor. Child marriage, a social evil, is a major issue in Pakistani society. With the recent passage of a bill against child marriage in the Senate, let’s discuss the effects it has on the child and society.
Child marriages have always prevailed in our society. That’s because no strict laws or actions have been taken to curb them. Our constitution has followed the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. Now Senator Sherry Rehman has presented a bill to amend it. The bill asks for a complete ban on marriage before the age of 18.
Previously the legal age of marriage for boys was 18 and for girls, it was 16. However, this law was not strictly reinforced because the religious sectors argue that a girl who has reached puberty is an adult and can be married. Thus some girls are married even before they are 15 years of age.
I am a mother myself. I find it unimaginable to have my children married at such young ages. But for many people, it is an easy choice or the way out. Lack of awareness plays a major role here. In our society, daughters are still considered burdens or property. Poor parents often believe that marrying their daughter will guarantee her a secure future, one better than what they can give her. Some parents marry their daughters early so they don’t have to pay a large dowry. The younger the bride the smaller the dowry. There are also instances when the grooms pay the price of the bride to her family. In such cases, parents tend to marry their daughters to generate some extra income. Not all child marriages are parent incentives though, some teenagers also elope to marry a partner of their choice. Love is not the only reason here. Some kids do so to gain independence, others to escape family violence or poverty. Whatever the reasons, what we need to understand is that child marriage, a social evil, is not healthy. It has a long list of consequences.
It contributes to the issue of women’s rights and freedom in Pakistan. Girls are not given a choice in either the timing or the person they are married to. This is a serious misconduct of women’s right to autonomy. It deprives them of their right to childhood, education, health, and opportunity. Child brides are forced to drop out of school. This limits their chances of economic independence and employment.
Child marriages are also a major contributing factor to the rising domestic violence and marital rapes. Being tender of age, they become easy victims. Not completely mature, they are also susceptible to physical, mental, and verbal abuse. They cannot even seek help for themselves because let’s face it, they don’t know who to approach for help.
The high maternal and infant mortality rate also has its roots in child marriages. Girls who are married at an early age run the risk of complicated pregnancies. Some even die during childbirth. Their babies are also more likely to have health issues. It takes away their ability to become competent mothers. Healthy and happy mothers bring up healthy and happy children.
Married children are also at risk of contaminating Sexually Transmitted Infections. Since their education stops early on, they don’t know what SITs are and how to take proper precautions against them to keep themselves safe.
To root out the social evil of child marriages, the government is taking action. The bill passed by the Senate is an excellent example. Other than that existing laws should be strictly enforced and strict action must be taken against those who break them. However, it’s not only the government’s responsibility. We, as responsible members of society, should also take an incentive against it. We can start by raising awareness about it. Looking around us, we’ll notice a number of children who cannot attend school due to various reasons. We can help by sponsoring such kids. Our house helps usually comes from an illiterate background that preached this practice. We can help them come out from the darkness and consider a better future for their kids. Our teenagers also need proper mentoring. Once they have a better shot at life, they will prefer waiting longer before getting married.
Together, all of us can rid our society of child marriages. We should not depend upon the government alone to find solutions to this issue. We must play our roles to keep the children of our nation safe from child marriages, a social evil that possesses a huge threat to our society’s well-being.