ISLAMABAD: Participants of a seminar on child marriages on Wednesday urged the government to tackle this issue on priority basis as “it is more dangerous than terrorism and is related to the future of Pakistan”.
Child marriages create multiple problems including social and cultural and require more expenditure over provision of health facilities. They also said the indicative trend of malnutrition among 15-19 year olds in Pakistan might lead to weak generations if child marriage is not eradicated from Pakistan.
The speakers regretted that there were no proper laws to discourage early marriages and if some laws in this regard exist not implemented. They urged the government to make the age of marriage at least 18 years for girls.
The event featured subject experts as well as policy makers and legislators. Subject experts shed light on the health, social and economic impacts of child marriage in Pakistan. Member of Provincial Assembly Dr Najma Afzal Khan stated that infant mortality among girls married before 20 was 116 per 1,000 births and reduces to 75 per 1,000 births for women after 20. She further shared national statistics on maternal mortality among girls married between 15-19 years of age and shed light on restricted access of girls and women to health services.
Bedari Executive Director and social activist Ambreen Ajaib shed light on the impact of child marriage on education attainment, drop out as well as transition rate from primary to secondary, which ultimately translates to only 22 percent girls participating in work force as adults. She claimed that child marriages discouraged contribution of women earning and also in economic development of the country. Maulana Muhammad Sharif Hazarvi, a renowned religious scholar shared the importance of a family unit in the light of Islam and Sunnah and expounded upon the need for capacity of a girl and boy to manage the household along with physical maturity. He further stated that keeping in view the situation in Pakistan, the state can legislate on the age of marriage.
Senior journalist Waqar Aslam Bhatti, also a member of the monitoring committee on implementation of Sindh Child Marriage Act shared stories from the field and shared the drivers of child marriage in Pakistan as well as the role journalists need to play in highlighting the said issue.
MPA Rahila Khadim Hussain shed light of the legislative proposal tabled in Punjab Assembly. She said increase in age of marriages for girls was the key amendment presented, which was currently with the Minister of Law for review. In terms of impediments, she shared that the rulings of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) were a strong impediment.
Human rights activist Qamar Nasim shed light on the Child Marriage Restraint Act and shared that the said bill was not allowed to be presented in the provincial assembly as it was considered unIslamic as per the rulings of CII and by other religio-political parties in the assembly.
One Voice, One Platform was launched in Islamabad on Wednesday, against the practice of child marriage in Pakistan. Centre for Communication Programmes Pakistan led the joint platform in collaboration with Bedari, Blue Veins and Sujag Sansar. The participants included representatives from civil society organisations as well as journalists. The event featured dissemination of advocacy toolkit against child marriage developed by the centre and advocacy material by other partner organisations. The platform also featured an animated video on child marriage, part of a social media campaign launched by the centre recently. Centre for Communication Programmes Pakistan Executive Direcotr Dr Atif Ikram Butt shared that child marriage was an issue in Pakistan and it impacted not only girls, “our future generations but also the economy”. He appreciated the efforts of civil society including religious scholars and journalists as well as policy makers in highlighting the issue.