By: Maliha Khan
Child marriage, in reality, refers to as an unlawful and illegal practice in which boys and girls are forced to marry before they reach a minimum legal age of adulthood. Globally, underage marriage is considered and seen as a criminal practice as well as a human rights violation. As per Federal Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 and Punjab Child Marriage in Pakistan Restraint (Amendment) Act 2015 the age of marriage for a girl is 16 and for a boy is 18 years. These laws make underage marriage a punishable act. Unfortunately, these present laws haven’t brought any noticeable decline in early marriage cases. Since these amendments have been made enforced, there has been little action seen against child marriages in Pakistan.
This is the reason that child marriage cannot be stopped in Pakistan. Especially, in underdeveloped and rural areas which is directly affecting the physical, mental, sexual condition of young girls in Pakistan.
Large numbers of girls are forced to marry due to their local cultural trends. This is the ultimate fact that the underage marriage deprives girls from their basic childhood rights of education, health, mental easiness. Early marriages made the girls face domestic violence, pregnancy issues and mental issues. Also, child marriage is the main reason for infant mortality. It is also the main reason for the death of young girls during pregnancy. This criminal act is not deeply resolved in Pakistan. We should take steps to stop underage child marriages in Pakistan.
Watta satta marriages are also practised in our culture and considered obligations in many parts of Pakistan. In watta satta marriage a girl is bounded directly to exchange girl’s relationship. These kinds of marriages are a major crime and open violation of human rights.
One of the major challenges to prevent child marriages is a conflict between Shariah Council Pakistan and the aforementioned Child Marriage act. The Shariah Council Pakistan declared that the child marriage laws of Pakistan are un-Islamic. Due to this serious conflict, the issue of underage and child marriages remained unresolved in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan should make efforts to resolve the conflict by engaging all stakeholders and through a comprehensive discussion and dialogue process. For that, the government should take immediate steps and take all stakeholders on board to save the future of the young generation, especially the oppressed female class of the society.
The writer is a student of Jinnah University for Women, Karachi.