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Child marriage

The ratio of child marriages in Pakistan stands at a staggering 32 per cent. The practice is looked down upon by the educated/enlightened classes, yet below the surface there is still a high level of acceptance and tolerance for this social evil, especially in the rural areas.

A seminar on child marriage organized recently came up with some rather disturbing figures on the subject. In rural areas 58 per cent females are married off before the age of 20. But even in urban areas, the ratio of 27 per cent is not that heartening.

Sindh is at the top when it comes to early marriage of females while Balochistan has the highest percentage of child marriage of boys. Punjab has the lowest percentage of child brides.

With the equation between early marriages and lack of education and awareness having been established beyond doubt, it can be surmised that the Punjab government’s recent efforts for providing free education in rural areas might be a reason for this decline in early marriage of girls.

The government must look into this factor and work towards spreading education. The recent case of three sisters in Sindh, all under the age of five, given in marriage as compensation, is shocking to say the least and demands action to strike at the root of such practices.

Child marriage contributes to virtually every social problem that keeps Pakistan backward in the arena of women’s rights; high birth rates, abject poverty, malnutrition, high illiteracy and infant mortality and low life expectancy, especially among rural women.

Law alone cannot exorcise this social evil. A change in the psyche of the illiterate is required. This will only happen through education. It is an uphill task but can be achieved with the government and civil society working hand in hand.

Source: The News

Date:9/22/2007

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