Umerkot: Speakers at a seminar said in unison that early marriage was a crime and entire society would have to reject it and stand by police’s efforts to curb it.
In South Asia every fifth child was the victim of this tradition and around 115 million had become its victim to date while in Pakistan 33 per cent children were wedded before the age of 18, they said at the seminar titled ‘Implementation of Child Marriage Restraint Act-2013’ organised by district police and social welfare department jointly at Bhitai Hall here on Wednesday.
Around 1.5 million children yearly faced this issue, they added.
Human rights trainer Iqbal Detho said the sale of underage girls into marriage and marriage in exchange in Mirpurkhas division, especially in poverty-stricken district Umerkot, had reached an alarming level. Police and other institutions must coordinate to implement the relevant law with its due spirit, he urged.
He said it was a worst form of human trafficking where parents sold their girls aged between six to 16 years for Rs1 million to Rs4m and married them at an early age, depriving them of their right to education, health and free-will marriage.
Pointing out that the main cause of increasing cases of suicide among married girls was early marriage, he said that 33pc maternal mortality was the result of child marriage.
Current inflation could aggravate the situation, he argued. Customs, culture, behaviours, greed, middlemen, poor laws and institutions, wrongly translated religious verses and myths had kept this menace untouched, he said. Only education, determination and joint efforts could minimise such incidents, he added.
Umerkot Deputy Commissioner Nadeem-ur-Rehman Memon said: “We can’t deny the fact, but putting the past behind, let’s promise to stand together to stop early marriages.” He also offered all his help in this regard.
Umerkot SSP Aijaz Shaikh said that he did not claim that all such cases had been stopped or that the menace had been rooted out, but police had tried their level best to cooperate with complainants and stop child marriages.
He quoted the case of Ameesha Khaskheli, which according to him was misreported by Sindhi media, putting the image of police at stake. Otherwise, it was not possible that an SHO handed over a girl to any landlord. It was a “drama” by a family to escape the law and punishment, he said. He said the case had disappointed the police and now his subordinates were afraid to deal with the cases of early marriage. He said there was no proper mechanism to prove if it was a wedding or engagement, therefore culprits escaped punishment.
He said his doors were open to curb this crime. In case police officials refused to listen to anyone, he could approach his office for an online direct complaint.
Social Welfare director Meeral Saheto said that it was a prime responsibility of the entire society to save children from this menace.