PESHAWAR: Recently a news appeared on mainstream and social media about a 64-year-old parliamentarian from Balochistan believed to have married with a-14-year-old girl in Chitral. Many child rights activists protested and lodged complaint with police to investigate the case, but no action was taken.
A few days ago in Peshawar, a friend shared a story of her househelp Hifsa who was forcefully married off to a man much older than her while she was only 12. As a child, she did not know what marriage means. Her mother-in- law would abuse her. Her husband used to beat her for her childish mistakes and she would be a victim of “marital rape”.
“Giving birth to a child while myself being a child was one of the most traumatic and painful experience of my life,” she said. Her husband used to abuse her both verbally and physically. She was forced to behave like a grown up woman from the age of 12.
‘’I was not allowed to play outside, rather I was expected to look after the house and behave as a responsible and matured woman,’’ she told TNN.
I think that a minor girl herself is a child. She needs to get educated and protected, but rather she is married off to look after an entire family at a time when she should be the one to be taken care off. A 12-year-old should be considered a child and not a bride, and her childhood should not be destroyed. Every child “marriage” is a forced marriage. No child has the mental capacity to consent to a violent and degrading tradition. A parent’s consent to sell off their daughters or force them to get married does not override the rights a minor has.
Child marriage is defined as the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18. It affects both girls and boys, but girls suffer more and especially in Pakistan they are subjected to verbal and physical abuse and exploitation of their mental and physical health. Girls who are forced to marry are most likely to have early pregnancies and some contract different diseases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death of 15-18 year olds globally.
The ignorance of contraceptives in the rural areas Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leads to major negative health issues especially for the young girls. According to a Unicef report in 2013, 21 percent girls were married before the age of 18 in Pakistan. Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality, and in a patriarchal set up, women are considered inferior to men. In our country, child marriages are usually the result of poverty, lack of education and religious beliefs. But what people don’t know is that it is a form of sexual abuse in which the child is subjected to marital rape and deprived of their education and childhood which leads to a traumatised life.
In backward areas, girls are sometimes abducted or in some areas of Sindh they are forcefully converted and married to older men. Child marriage or marriage without the free and full consent of both spouses is a grave human rights violation.
I believe that we should change our mindset on what the fate of young women in this state would be. Women are also human beings and instead of getting them married at a young age, we rather should send them to schools and teach them the way of life. We must all work together to educate the masses and end this global canker. A society cannot progress unless and until its women are educated. Ending child marriage and giving girls proper education and granting women rights mean a fairer, and more secure prosperous future for all of us.