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Alarm over rise in underage girls’ sale into marriage

UMERKOT: Leaders of civil society have expressed grave concern over an alarming rise in the sale of minor girls into marriage in Umerkot, Tharparkar and Sanghar districts and demanded that the government implement relevant laws in letter and spirit to save children’s lives.

Social activists Abdul Karim Mangrio and Mir Hassan Arisar, Women Action Forum’s Rasheeda Sand, Bansi Malhi and members of “Save underage girls from sale and marriage committee” said at a press conference at the press club on Monday that in 2014-15 more than 200 girls were sold into marriage to older partners hailing from Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Daharki, Ghotki and other areas.

They cited parents’ greed and extreme poverty as major reasons behind the nagging social evil and said that girls aged between four and 14 years and adults had been sold for varying prices ranging from Rs1 million to Rs4 million.

Their buyers often used them as their servants, who fed their goats and sheep and in a number of cases the girls were reportedly killed, they said.

In 2014, they said, the Sindh government introduced the Sindh Marriage Bill but the law had not been implemented yet because of reluctance on the part of police, they said and cited as example a case of underage marriage exposed by social activist Abdul Karim Mangrio in Umerkot five days ago.

They said Mr Mangrio approached the court of district and sessions judge Syed Nasiruddin Shah who then directed police to raid the wedding ceremony. Police arrested parents of the bride, groom and other participants and lodged an FIR on Mr Mangrio’s complaint, they said.

Mr Mangrio said that the case had been lodged but police were now supporting the accused and some influential persons associated with the Pakistan Peoples Party were also pressuring him and witnesses to withdraw the case.

It was the responsibility of the state to register cases against the social evil which was destroying lives of innocent girls, he said.