Imtiaz Essa Halepoto
A person, who is under 18 years of age, is legally minor in Pakistan. Law defines 18 years as age of mutuality. Likewise, Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 defines the minimum legal age of marriage 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. But despite this specific age defined by law, early child marriage practice is common in countryside areas of Pakistan, especially in sindh. Early Child marriages are caused by poverty, bride price, dowry, cultural traditions, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of the child remaining unmarried into adulthood, illiteracy, and perceived inability of women to work for money. Child marriage is indubitably a social problems of Pakistan. Thus It causes girls’ illiteracy rate at peak. It also damages the female physical, mental and social health leading to serious health issues in the future. Prenatal, neonatal, and maternal health problems are also tied to women married before the age of 18. It has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas. Girls’ offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children. UNICEF defined Child Marriage as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18. Additionally, it portrayed that one in five girls (17%) are married before the age of 15. Consequently, Child marriage creates hurdles in getting proper education as bride and groom remains engaged in spending life with earning hand. Thus they sometimes abandon their studies to live hand to mouth. Similarly, social and psychological pressures also disturb the calmness of both husband and wife due to early age. One learns how to deal with life effectively, after being mutual. But before mutuality, Children depend upon their parents. Therefore Early marriage of their offsprings also burdens upon the shoulders of parents. In 2019, a bill introduced by Pakistani senator, Sherry Rehman, was passed in the Senate to increase the minimum age of marriage for female to 18. The bill was aimed at ending child marriage in Pakistan. The bill was passed with overwhelming majority. Similarly, Sindh Assembly also passed a bill for stoppage of Early marriage. But both laws lack in implementation. These marriages take place due to unawareness and ignorance. Therefore the proper way to aware people in this regard, should be managed. So that this practice could be ended permenantly from society. Government of Pakistan should legislate more new laws and also get existing laws to be followed strictly. So that these problems could be prevented before their happenings.
(-The writer is a freelance columnist, based in Jamshoro.)