Child marriage refers to the practice of forcing children, under the marriageable age, into matrimony. It is grossly practiced in several divisions of the world and is more prominent in countries such as: Pakistan, India and South America. Pakistan falls within the bracket of those top countries which report the highest number of child marriages on an annual basis. It is a phenomenon that repugnantly violates the Human Rights Convention. In this essay, the causes and consequences of child marriage shall be taken into account in detail.
Child marriage is a frequent practice, particularly in rural parts of Pakistan, due to the following reasons:
Lack of education
Apparently, parents who marry off children at a very young age are not well educated. Owing to their lack of skills and qualifications, they get employed into jobs that pay meager wages or remain unemployed. As a result of lack of money to support children and fulfill their essential needs, they sell them off or marry them to others in the hope of reducing poverty. They are extremely unaware of the fact that marrying children off only leads to more poverty because it disrupts their education. Hence, the cycle of poverty continues and they remain unemployed or find low-paying jobs, which are insufficient to satisfy needs in today’s inflationary world.
Insufficient funds are also one of the underlying reasons of child marriage. When parents do not have adequate resources at their disposal to comply with their indispensable needs that is when off springs become too much of a burden on financial affairs and are, therefore, sold or married off.
There have been many religious fundamentalists through the course of history in Pakistan who have interpreted the Quran in a totally absurd way and influenced scores of communities in rural settlements. According to religious myths, early marriages are better than late marriages. This is why illiterate parents get hasty in finding partners for the children. It could also be a means to attain more money. Perhaps this is why parents do not think rationally – they do not contemplate over the detrimental impacts on their children. No religion of the world supports child marriage. No evidence has been initiated as such that supports child marriage. So-called scholars make things up to achieve their own ends and make people fall into their trap, not realizing the fact that they are in fact doing more damage in the name of religion. Without any realistic thought, they spoil the image of a specific religion – in our case – Islam.
Daughters seen as a burden
This is yet another heartbreaking reality that Pakistan has to confront on a regular basis. The birth of a son, in rural areas, becomes a cause for joy and celebration as boys are seen to be powerful and physically and mentally capable for the daunting, challenging tasks of a job. Girls are seen as less intelligent, proficient and competent to survive the intimidating tasks of a job. This is a reflection of an utterly preposterous male chauvinistic society where men stand out among the crowd whereas women are looked down upon. As soon as a girl is born, parents start worrying about her marriage. Her very entrance into the family becomes a financial burden on the parents and they marry her off or sell her in order to obtain more finance.
The causes of child marriage are overwhelming and so are the consequences. The fact that children, at their young age, should be playing with toys are forced into matrimony is distressing. Their whole childhood is destroyed and they do not even get the opportunity to get educated and work. The selfish motives of parents rob children of their youth and they are compelled to live in devastating circumstances. The results of child marriage are as follows:
Young married girls are physically incapable, which the parents are too illiterate to be aware of, and hence are not able to rear children appropriately. Their nutrition is not aptly catered to which leads to miscarriages, premature births and high mortality rate. According to Dawn, of 60 million girls under the age of 18 across the globe, 24 percent were married in Pakistan alone in 2012. When girls should be playing with dolls, they are delivering babies. Dawn further mentions the fact that one woman die every twenty minutes during childbirth, which places the mortality ration as high as 276 per 100,000. The risks of dying are comparatively higher among female children.
As soon as female children get married, they start going through physical, mental and emotional changes. Early marriage places a lot of psychological pressure on them which disrupts their health and nutrition. The trauma of a forced marriage is too grave to handle and causes girls to undergo psychological problems. They experience stress, anxiety and depression which results in their malnutrition. Girls also ultimately become suicidal.
Girls are often married to men twice their age and much older. As a result, they become more submissive and dependent on their husbands for emotional, financial physical stability. This only promotes a false conception among rural communities that men are in ultimate power, they can exploit women, women cannot survive without men and that females are needy, demanding and dependable figures that rely on men for support.
Interruption in education
Children who get married early cannot get educated. Hence, their skills are qualifications are inadequate to land them into good jobs. They, consequently, remain poor. Early marriages also contribute to grave health complications among children because of the unnecessary pressure of matrimony that is unreasonably imposed upon them.
Population Explosion – degeneration
Given the high number of female children being married, the ripple effect is that population of a particular region increases by a significantly sizable amount. This leads to the phenomenon of population explosion. It is a huge obstacle to a nation’s progress because with the finite resources available at her disposal, a country can fulfill the needs of a limited number of people.
Another issue that is common in Pakistan’s rural slums is marriage to Quran. Islam strictly forbids marriage to Quran. However, this is not being respected here. Marriage to Quran is practiced on a large scale, the reasons being: illiteracy, poverty and to save property. Apparently, people in slum areas do not have the means to acquire a good education. They interpret the Quran in a totally wrong light. The practice is illegal and strictly regulated by the Shariah law. People may also marry off girls to save property, gold and the costs of a marriage. Another reason is that parents do not prefer marrying girls off to boys.
Having considered the unfavorable causes and consequences of child marriage, a conclusion arises that unless the government and agencies do something to raise awareness in order to curb this malpractice, child marriage will be continued on a wide scale and will become a huge hurdle to nation’s progress.