Teenagers marrying person three times their age – Is it justified?

By: Syed Midhat Kamal - Legislative Intern SSDO

In Pakistan, around 21% of the girls are forced to get married even before their 18th birthday, whereas, the rate is 3% in the case of before age 15 as per UNICEF Report. Notably, this is not just restricted to girls but the girl victims are large as compared to boys. Isn’t it an alarming situation for us to ponder over? Or should it be neglected like some of the other issues in Pakistan? Let’s delve into the deep roots of the cause.

Imagine a child barely in their explorative period of life is subjected to enforced marriage and assault leaving behind their childhood desires. That child is deemed as an adult twice their age by society. Forcefully converting the usual childishness into getting responsible enough to take care of an older one and shattering their dreams of education. Here is one such story shared by courageous Hadiqa Bashir from Swat Valley, founder of an organization named “Girls United for Human Rights” that made her strong enough to object grandmother’s decision of marrying her off at age of 11:

“During the age of 7, one of my friends told me that she’s getting married. We were excited about the marriage dress and for the jewelry and everything. However, we weren’t aware of the big responsibility and future circumstances. Her mother-in-law once scolded us quoting that she is a woman now; hence, she won’t play with us. Upon inquiring the reason of her pale and down face at a school meeting, we got to know that she was beaten with an iron wire by her husband”. Isn’t it heart-wrenching? There is more to it.

In February 2021, another case of 64-year old MNA marrying a 13-year-old caught temporary “no action” attention of people leading to protests by legislators, NGOs, and activists. This is not one such case, but a representation of hundreds of cases in different parts of Pakistan. As per the story of another girl published in Girls Not Brides, Salma, being the youngest one among her siblings, just like other children of her age carried millions of dreams in her eyes to not only gain but spread education by becoming a teacher in future. However, those dreams got shattered by disastrous flooding in the year 2010 forcing them to seek refuge in camps for the internally displaced people. Soon, her passion and dreams were curtailed through the decision of getting Salma married at 14 years old, robbing away her childhood.

Despite the existence of laws such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act, the rate of child marriages is likely to inflate shortly. As perceived, it is due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy leading to aggravating poverty in the country. According to the World Bank report, the poverty ratio in our country is expected to remain at 39.3% until the year 2023 [5]. Generally