Getting a minor i.e. below the age of eighteen married is known as child marriage. It is usually forced and is a great violation of human rights. The phenomenon of child marriage has become a very common practice, especially in South Asia. This practice is so harmful that it snatches away the childhood of the minors who are forced into this relationship of marriage. According to the data drawn upon after the researches through many surveys, it has been noticed that the greater number of minors forced into marriage are girls. Despite the negative impacts of child marriages in every field of life, there are still many cases being reported in South Asia. If we talk about Pakistan, I often wake up to a news channel that reports about how a minor girl was forcefully married to a feudal lord. This is such a huge issue that has taken the lives of many young girls who rightfully refused to get married and were killed by the families for the sake of honor.
A girl who deserves to study in a school is forced to take care of a new home. A girl who should have fun with her friends is invited to her ‘shaadi dawats’. A girl who should have a bag on her shoulders is burdened with a heavy red dupatta and lots of gold jewelry. These were just a few instances of where and how the world goes unfair when it comes to getting the minor married. We shall only talk about girls while discussing child marriage because living in a male dominant society, the boys are supposed to study and earn before they get married; which ultimately exits them from the circle of child marriage. That is why the phenomenon of child marriage plays the role of a major barrier in gender equality in various fields of life.
Child marriage also has a pretty negative impact on the health of minor girls. The minor girls who are forced into marriage before age of eighteen are at a higher risk of HIV as well as other infections that are transmitted sexually. Early pregnancy at such a young age, put severe risks on the health of the little girls. An intimate sexual relationship with a young girl, puts her at risk of sexual injuries, due to forced sexual relationships. Many cases are reported where a child bride is taken to the hospital because of excessive bleeding on the wedding night.
If we ever go into the root causes of the increased child marriages, we shall notice that this is more commonly practiced in the households that live below the line of poverty. The cases have been seen where the girls of poor households are married, in return for the payment of the debt of the girls’ family by the groom or his family. Furthermore, illiteracy is another cause which enforces the families to think that getting a minor girl married shall save her future; despite the fact, the researches show that minor girls married for the sake of safe future, usually stay poor and dependent in future too.
Child marriage snatches away the educational rights of the girl children. The young girls are taken out of school and married, which keeps them illiterate and dependent on their husbands. Dependency is what forces them to stay with an abusive husband too. We have seen the reported cases where a minor girl lives in an abusive relationship, despite having a physically and verbally abusive husband. Why? The reason because she is dependent upon him and has been ingrained with an idea that she wouldn’t be able to afford her living without him since she was taken out of school. This is a chain, which moves on from generation to generation. An illiterate mother never lets her daughter study and does the same with her. This also leads to unequal participation of both genders in the workforce.
We all need to participate in bringing down this horrible practice of child marriages. We may start by promoting girl education and creating awareness among the families through seminars or sessions. On the macro level, the authorities should modify the law which shall discourage child marriage and shall impose heavy penalties on the families that get their minors married; be it a girl or a boy. The young girls should be supported and encouraged in reporting to the authorities if they are forced on getting married. We need to get the families educated that their honor is not protected by getting the little girls married.
The researches show that the rate of child marriages in South Asia is around 30%. UNICEF is working on this very commonly practiced problem of South Asia and is taking various measures to end the phenomenon of child marriage.