Under the Clutches of Marital Pressure While Being Underage
Child marriage occurs when a child or minor under the age of 18 is forced, coerced and compelled to marry someone without his or her consent. Child marriage is an infringement upon the fundamental right of a citizen, bestowed under the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Although this tragedy is unfortunately quite common in the province of Sindh, it has been happening all over the country.
According to a survey conducted in 2017, 3 percent of girls in Pakistan are forcibly married at the age of 15 while 21 percent of the girls are married under the age of 18. According to a research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), child marriage is usually practised in the rural areas of Pakistan – during 2010-2018, over 140 million underage girls were subjected it! Since it is common in places like Sukkar, Larkana, Thatta and Khairpur, etc. local organizations are working tirelessly to address and reduce this menace for adolescent girls and boys.
Pakistani law also condemns child marriage and warns its citizens against getting involved in such ceremonies. The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was adopted in Pakistan after independence. This law prohibits marriages under the age of 18. Moreover, the Pakistan Penal Code also prohibits child marriages and imposes a sanction of imprisonment for at least 3-7 years against those in violation. The Pakistan Penal Code also makes child marriage a cognizable offence.
Sindh has been the first province to pass provincial-level legislation by enforcing a law in 2003, but after the passage of legislation, awareness also needs to be generated among the masses in order to shut down child marriages in the province. If a person has to be 18 in order to get a national identity card or driver’s licence, or enter into contracts, or contest elections, how can a citizen be married off before 18? Fellow citizens must also discourage child marriages if they understand that young girls need better education, better health, and equal rights and access to opportunities being denied to them.
Child marriage has often been regarded as a scar on the face of the human race and has regularly been condemned by international organizations across the world, including UNICEF. While marriage is regarded as a very scared institution and a wedding is regarded as a highly glorified event in South Asia, its true connotation is often not properly respected. In large parts of Africa, young girls and even boys are forced into marital activities without their consent. Forced marriages tend to give rise to extreme and violent acts such spousal violence, domestic violence and various forms of domestic torture, threatening the survival of the nuclear family system.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a beacon that shines light on the rights of every person on this planet. It also addresses child marriage as a scar on the face of the society and inoculates against it under Article 16 for both genders with the allowance of full age. It simply means that even human rights instruments do not support any stances in favour of child marriages which are rampant in third world and developing countries like Pakistan.
The ignorant masses in Pakistan follow many troubling customs, including vani, watta-satta and child engagement, which further give rise to child marriages. While vani and watta-satta have mostly been recorded in the rural areas of Pakistan, pre-adult engagement has been recorded in urban areas as well. Since the menace of child marriage has become part of such customs, it must be eradicated through not just legislation but also widespread education and collective societal efforts.
Incidents of child marriage are numerous and can be attributed to more than one factor. Women and young girls in our society are often considered to be a burden on the family for very regressive reasons and parents think they must be married off as early as possible to lift their financial and societal burdens. Similarly, young boys are married off at an early age because family members think that a sense of responsibility will be invoked in them. This is not only damaging for the social welfare of boys and girls as well as the society, it is also hazardous to health. The risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases is quite high in cases of child marriage. The phenomenon of unsafe intercourse in also very common in such cases. That is why child marriage is an evil smirk on the face of the society which calls itself civil. It must be dealt with iron hands in order to be eradicated.
 Child Rights in Pakistan by Anees Jillani and Zarina Jillani, p. 7
 Survey conducted by PDHS on 17 April, 2018
 “Demographics of Child Marriage in Pakistan”, research conducted by WHO
 Reported by Marvi Rural Development Organization
 A.2 of Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
 S.310-A of PPC
 S.498 of PPC
 Article 16 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
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