Pakistan is suffering from one of the worst floods ever as the calamity has left thousands dead and rendered millions homeless. During the National calamity, reports surfaced of an increasing number of child marriages. The report presents a grim ground reality of flood-affected Pakistan. It also exposes the degrading socio-cultural situation of the country.
Reason For Increase in Child Marriages
The floods have caused mass destruction in Pakistan. According to the latest reports, the death toll in Pakistan due to floods has reached 1600 while thousands have sustained grievous injuries.
The calamity has left several without home or occupation while being burdened with family responsibilities and medical expenses. In the Sindh province, 23 districts have been declared disaster-hit. According to the NDMA, more than 1 crore 45 lakh people are completely or partially affected due to the floods.
The situation has become even worse for females as women and girls have become especially vulnerable to Pakistan’s floods. They are facing problems such as lack of hygiene kits and safe places. According to AFP, “There’s also the increased risk of violence against women and child marriage”.
According to the BBC, many flood-affected parents are marrying off their girl-child, in exchange for money.
The report states an individual marrying off his 12-year-old girl for an amount of 50 thousand Pakistani Rupees. He is even planning for the marriage of his younger daughter, who is only 10 years old.
This is not a singular incidence as several such marriages have been formalised in several flood-hit provinces of Pakistan.
Mehtab Sindhu, associated with the NGO ‘Zindagi Development Organisation’, is currently engaged in relief work for flood victims in the Dadu district of Sindh and its surrounding areas. He tells that dozens of child marriages have been formalised in the village (he’s currently working at) and none of them is above 18 years of age.
The issue of Child Marriage in Pakistan
The issue of child marriage has always plagued Pakistan society. According to Dawn, “It tends to occur among the country’s most marginalised and vulnerable communities. While both boys and girls are married off early in many parts of Pakistan, a greater number of girls become victims of this age-old custom”.
According to a report by Islamabad-based NGO ‘Sahil’, working for child protection, 199 cases of child marriages were reported in Pakistan. 95% of reported cases involved a girl child while 5% of cases had a child boy as the groom.
The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18 claimed that 3.6% of girls below the age of 15 are married off while 18.3% of girls are married off below the age of 18. Although, a UNICEF report claims that 21% of Pakistani girls were married by the age of 18 while 3% were married as they turned 15.
According to UNICEF, Pakistan stands on 6th number in the list of highest child marriages in the world.
Harmful Effects of Child Marriage
According to UNICEF, “girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school and not earn money and contribute to the community”.
According to organisation Girls not brides, “Complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19”.
“Children born to child brides also have a higher risk of malnutrition than children born to older mothers — a significant barrier to the health of the child, their educational prospects, and, in the longer term, their contribution to household and national economies through their labour,” says a World Bank report.
Child marriage is a curse for human civilisation as long as it exists anywhere in the world. Pakistan needs to show a political will to uproot this evil practice, even though if it has cultural and religious backing in the region.