In Pakistan 21pc girls are married before 18, 3pc before 15

National Dialogue on child, early age marriage

Zubair Qureshi

More than one-fifth (21 per cent) of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18; 3 per cent before they are 15 years old whereas Pakistan has the 6th highest absolute numbers of child marriages (1.9 million). This was revealed during a national dialogue held to highlight the reasons and impact of Child And Early Age Marriage (CEAM). National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Shirkat Gah Women Resource Center had jointly organized a national dialogue on CEAM on Friday.
The event titled “National Dialogue on Ending Child, Early Age Marriages in Pakistan” also featured sharing of the lessons of Humsathi Intervention Study- a project by Shirkat Gah to understand and reduce child and early age marriages (CEAM). The project started in 2015 with support from the International Development Research Centre.
The study suggests that socio-cultural norms and values are the primary drivers of CEAM. Denying offspring the right to decide, marriages are used to cement or forge ties, and for financial gain. Girls in particular are denied agency: their mobility, right to education and health along with marriage are all subject to decisions made by parents or other family elders. Treated as ‘cattle’ passed from one owner to another, ‘in the words of one mother,’ girls are perceived as a moral and economic burden that parents are eager to divest themselves of as early as possible.
The event also included sharing of “Youth Charter of Demands for Ending Child and Early Age Marriages” prepared by 500 female and male youth across the four provinces. The charter demanded raise in the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years for all citizens, across all territories and religious communities and the strict implementation of the law. Speaking on this occasion, Chief Guest Senator Seher Kamran said that CEAM was recognized worldwide as a problem that needs to be overcome in order to ensure that girls and boys enjoy their childhood and are enabled to fulfill their true potential.
Executive Director Shirkat Gah Women Resource Center Farida Shaheed said that more than one fifth (21 per cent) of girls in Pakistan are married before 18; 3 per cent before they are 15 years old whereas Pakistan has the 6th highest absolute numbers of child marriages (1.9 million).
In her introductory remarks, NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said talked about the impact of early child marriage on girl child and the need to take serious measures against this practice at every level. She urged youth to voice their concerns. “I am pleased to see young boys and girls taking up their matter today at this forum,” she said.
Chairperson Punjab’s Provincial Commission on the Status of Women said that the awareness on the impact and legal repercussions of child marriage is increasing in the society. She stressed the need to educate Nikah registrars on this issue. Chairperson Sindh’s Provincial Commission on the Status of Women Nuzhat Shirin briefed the participants about the measures taken by the Sindh government. She urged for the effective implementation of existing laws. The event ended with interactive discussion around the issue where civil society representatives, researchers, youth leaders and rights activists shared their experiences and suggestions for the way forward.

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