HYDERABAD: Artists highlighted issues of gender violence due to early marriage and its impact on girls’ lives through plays at the concluding session of a three-day workshop here on Wednesday.
The workshop was organised by the Sindh Community Foundation (SCF), a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with the UN Women, the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women.
The artists depicted the situation in the light of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 that prohibits marriage of children below 18 years of age, which was also theme of the workshop.
Thirty artists, including 12 girls from Sukkur, Dadu and Tando Mohammad Khan, took part in the plays. A theatre group from Dadu portrayed the story of a girl who was married to a mentally challenged man at the age of 13 when she was in the fifth grade. After 10 years, she was divorced and left alone to carry on with a difficult life.
The workshop concluded with a discussion on the role of theatre in social transformation, performances of three theatre groups from Dadu, Tando Muhammad Khan and Sukkur and screening of documentaries highlighting the issues of gender based because of early marriage and its health impact on girls’ lives.
Former station director of Radio Pakistan Naseer Mirza said that theatre played a positive role in shaping society and changing behaviour towards sensitive issues. Mirza Qaleech Baig was the first to introduce theatre in Sindh long ago, he said.
Punhal Sario of Sindh Hari Porhiyat Council said that Sindh faced challenges of social and economic backwardness. Parents were compelled to sacrifice their girls at the altar of outdated customs, often leading to tragic circumstances for girls who in many cases put their lives at risk after the marriage against their will, he said.
He said that girls and boys should be allowed to marry of their own free will. Marrying them off against their will was not only a stark violation of human rights but it also constituted their emotional exploitation, he said.
SCF’s Javed Soz said that Pakistan’s 2006-07 demographic and health survey shows almost half of girls of 15 to 18 years of age became mothers. The Sindh Assembly had passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act that prohibited marriage of children below 18 years of age, he said.
He said the performers opposed early marriages and wanted to create awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to identify violations of the legislation.
It would encourage them to become agents of change, promoting effective implementation of the law and promote girls’ leadership to eliminate violence and early marriages, he said.
Senior journalist Ishaq Mangrio and Alvena Gladius from Lahore and others also spoke at the workshop.