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Pakistan Becomes Third Largest Country to Reduce Child Marriage: UN


Child marriage is a sad and abhorrent reality of not just Pakistan but all over the sub-continent. It is so deep-rooted in our culture that girls are robbed of their innocent years of childhood. According to the Demographic and Health Survey, in Pakistan, one in three girls is married off before reaching 18 years of age.
Child marriage is a harmful practice that deprives girls of their childhood and future opportunities. When girls get married at a young age, they are less likely to complete their education and may experience domestic violence, abuse, and health problems. In fact, teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are at a higher risk of domestic violence, with almost one in four girls reporting such incidents in the past year. Child marriage also puts young girls at risk of pregnancy-related complications, sexually transmitted infections, and even death. In addition, marrying early can limit a girl’s independence and control over her own life.

United Nations on Child Marriage

According to the UN report, Pakistan is the third largest country to reduce child marriage. This is great news for Pakistan where this practice has been widespread for so long. The UN added that South Asia needs at least 5 years to get rid of this terrible practice if doesn’t speed up.
In South Asia, Pakistan has made progress in reducing child marriage and is ranked third, after Maldives and Sri Lanka but ahead of India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bhutan. However, there are still around 18% of women in Pakistan who get married in their childhood, which is slightly lower than the worldwide average of 19%.
Despite being the third largest country to reduce child marriage, the statistics mentioned that Pakistan still has nearly 19 million child brides because 1 in 6 young women are married off in their childhood.
Moreover, Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage all over South Asia and the Maldives has the low i.e. 2%. As for in India, most of the child marriage cases lead to early motherhood which is when women when married in childhood give birth in their teenage.

What is the Legal Age of Marriage in Pakistan?

While the legal age for marriage in Pakistan is 18 years, around 18% of girls in the country still get married before reaching that age. In many cases, there is a significant age difference between the child bride and her husband, with the gap often ranging between 40 to 60 years.

Pakistani Laws Against Child Marriage

The Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act in 2014, which increased the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for both boys and girls. This law also made child marriage a punishable offense in the province. According to the new law, men who are over 18 and contract a child marriage can face imprisonment for up to three years. Those who officiate underage marriages can also be jailed for two to three years. Even the parents or guardians who allow the marriage can be prosecuted for not stopping it.

How to Protect Child Marriage in Pakistan?

Stopping child marriage is not an individual man’s effort, it takes a village to eradicate practices like these from a system. A solid step from the government can help communities break free of child marriages. Here are some of the small steps that can be taken in this direction:
1. The first step is to raise awareness about the harms and consequences of child marriage. This can be done through education campaigns in schools, communities, and media.
2. Girls must be given equal opportunities for education and employment to become financially independent and have the ability to make their own decisions.
3. The government should enforce existing laws that prohibit child marriage, and introduce new laws if necessary.
4. The government and non-governmental organizations can provide support to families and communities, such as health care, education, and counseling.

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