A seven-year-old girl, Qazbano, was recently married to a 12-year-old boy in District Ghotki of Sindh in Pakistan. The father of the groom said that he had arranged the marriage of his minor niece with his son because the father of the girl was dead and she was an orphan. It is a pity that the marriage of minors is arranged on such pretexts. This is done without realising that child marriages destroy one’s childhood, burdening the child with the heavy responsibilities of adulthood. The few reported cases of child marriage are just the tip of the iceberg as most remain unreported. Only a few organisations are working on this issue in Pakistan but it demands a widespread campaign by all stakeholders — the government, media, civil society organisations and academia. Fortunately, international bodies have started highlighting this grave offence. October 11 has been designated ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ by the United Nations General Assembly as a day to promote the rights of girls, to address the unique challenges that they face and to highlight the gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys. Recognising the impact of child marriage on girls, the UN has chosen child marriage as the theme for this year’s Day of the Girl. Child marriage hinders the achievement of six out of the eight Millennium Development Goals, disrupts education, complicates health problems, flares domestic and family/tribal violence, puts psychological pressure on young girls, results in a high rate of polygamy and enhances the risk of mortality. It is estimated that 10 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18 every year. The time for action on child marriage is now.

GULSHER PANHWER JOHI,

Sindh