Karachi: Five girls, all of whom were married off at the age of 13, were specially invited from remote areas of Sindh to share their stories in a programme held by the Rehnuma Family Planning Association Pakistan (RFPAP) on Thursday.
Though they appeared fragile and vulnerable, they gave a hard time to the speakers at the event.
Mehtab Akbar Rashidi, president of the RFPAP, was given the task to ask questions because the girls were more comfortable speaking in Sindhi As the session started, the host asked the girls if they were happy to have been married at such a young age. “Nobody asked my permission before marrying me off,” one of them retorted.
Though the objective of the session was to get their version of the story, the girls were, for the most part, no way near as teary-eyed as the speaker wanted them to be. Instead, they were extremely matter of fact, which proved to be a source of amusement for some.
For example, when 16-year-old Hina, who has been married for two years, was asked if she was happy to be married, she was prompt in giving an oddly bright response, “I definitely am; my husband cooks for me and doesn’t let me do the household chores.”
Though the event was dotted with such lighter moments, the girls have endured a lot because of their early marriage. This was made most evident when one of them shared her personal experiences regarding sexual intercourse. She said it was still the most difficult part of the relationship. “For the most part I used to lie quietly and wait for the act to get over,” said Asiya, an 18-year-old who had been married at the age of 13 to a 20-year-old boy.
Even as the speaker’s persistence in trying to extract disturbing facts was met mostly with laughter, the fact that nothing has been done regarding the efficacy of the law was not lost on some people.
Criticising the superficial handling of such issues, Nawab Ali, a field worker with the Women Welfare Department, says that this is a result of people thinking that the “Saddar area comprises Karachi and that covering the area would solve all of our problems.”
He said that rather than going into Sindh, simply taking a round of Orangi Town, Banaras and Gadap Town would highlight a plethora of sub-cultures that would be an eye-opener for many. Giving an example, he said there were places where centuries-old customs still existed. He stressed that clerics must be questioned about what the right age was for girls to marry.
“Poverty and insecurity are the main factors for why girls are married off at such an early age,” says Barrister Shahida Jamil. She also pointed out that the nature of the law was such that it was difficult to make amendments to it.
Source: The News