We all know that underage marriage is a crime, the statistics show that the practice of underage marriage is less than before, of course the main reason is better legislation with education and awareness. At the same time, the loud voices of civil society have had an impact, but it is still the most important issue. The issue of child marriage in Punjab has been raised several times by various quarters but so far no concrete strategy has been seen for proper prevention and no new legislation has been enacted in this regard. To overcome this situation, forgetting the political differences, many women members of the ruling party PTI and the opposition party PML-N also came to the floor in the Punjab Assembly, demanding that the legal age of marriage should be at least 18 years instead of 16 years, be done.
The issue was also raised by women’s rights groups in 2015 and efforts were made to amend the law, but so far no progress has been made. The women MPs also introduced an amendment bill in 2015 which has not been passed yet. Last year, a private organization launched a signature campaign in which more than 22,000 people signed their affidavit stating that the minimum age for marriage for girls should be 18 years. Early marriage of girls is a social evil which should be eradicated from Punjab at all costs. We believe that marrying underage girls is not only detrimental to their health but also an emotional abuse. Because having a child at a young age, she is unable to fulfill her mother’s responsibilities and is not able to fulfill her domestic responsibilities.
Marrying girls at an early age is tantamount to depriving them of their freedom. With such traditions, girls can neither think of completing their education nor decide on their own secure future. According to him, girls are made to realize from childhood that their only purpose is marriage and that is why they were born. This feeling deprives them of their mental and social freedom. Around 50 million girls in the world get married at a young age every year, the number is expected to double in the next decade. Annually 21% of girls in Pakistan are married off before the age of 18, while Sindh getting the highest number.
Well-known historian Nancy Demand writes in her book Birth, Death and Motherhood that in ancient Greece, early marriage for girls and early motherhood was considered a good omen. Similarly, in the Roman Empire (27 BC), the legal age for marriage for both boys and girls was 10 to 14 years, and in the fourth century AD, the legal age for marriage in the church was 12 years. In European countries at the beginning of the 16th century, this age was between 13 and 16 years.
In the state of Virginia in 1689, there are also references to 10-year-old wives. The same tradition existed in several American and British colonies in Africa and Asia. But these were monarchical and authoritarian periods. After the periods of modernity and liberalism in the world, it was demanded that these outdated traditions should be abolished but it was not possible. This evil is still found in every country of the world. Far more! Western countries have always given the impression that Islam is a religion of underage marriage, which is completely wrong.
Today, there is a need to formulate an effective policy for the prevention of child marriage in the country. To discourage this evil, it is imperative that MPs enact concrete legislation for the whole country and that civil society organizations, along with the government, play their full role in educating the people. The punishments for this crime in our country are very weak, which need to be changed into severe punishments so that one should think a thousand times before committing this sin. As in many countries, child marriage has been significantly curtailed in the last decade through legislation and penalties.
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