A person who is under 18 years of age, is legally a minor in Pakistan. The law defines 18 years as the age of maturity. Likewise, the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 defines the minimum legal age of marriage 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. But despite this specific age defined by law, early child marriage practices are common in the countryside areas of Pakistan, especially in Sindh. Early child marriages are caused by poverty, bride price, dowry, cultural traditions, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of the child remaining unmarried into adulthood, illiteracy, and perceived inability of women to work for money.

Child marriage is indubitably a cause of social problems in Pakistan. It severely impacts the literacy rate of women. It also damages the female physical, mental and social health leading to serious health issues in the future. Prenatal, neonatal, and maternal health problems are also tied to women being married before the age of 18. It has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas. Girls’ offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children. UNICEF defined child marriage as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18.

Additionally, it portrayed that one in five girls (17%) are married before the age of 15 and do not continue school after marriage. Consequently, child marriage creates hurdles in getting a proper education. Women often abandon their studies to live hand to mouth. Similarly, social and psychological pressures also disturb the calmness of both husband and wife due to early age. .

In 2019, a bill introduced by Pakistani senator, Sherry Rehman, was passed in the Senate to increase the minimum age of marriage of females to 18. The bill was aimed at ending child marriage in Pakistan. The bill was passed with overwhelming majority. Similarly, Sindh Assembly also passed a bill for stopping early marriages.

Both laws lack in implementation. These marriages take place due to unawareness and ignorance. Therefore the proper way to bring awareness to the people in this regard should be managed so that this practice could be ended permanently from society. The government of Pakistan should legislate more new laws and also get existing laws to be followed strictly so that these problems could be prevented before their happenings.

IMTIAZ ESSA HALEPOTO,

Jamshoro.