We children need our parents to focus on our education, not marriage
“A shiver crept down her spine when they put henna on her little hands, everyone around her clapping and dancing, totally unaware of what was happening to her she sang songs of her destruction at her own marriage” these lines tell the story of every little girl bride in my country.
Child marriage is still a problem deeply rooted in my country. It is widespread and occurs in all regions of Pakistan with the highest prevalence in Sindh and Balochistan. It’s a problem worse than terrorism as it is related to the country’s future. One out of every 10 children in Pakistan fall prey to this practice. In vulnerable parts of Pakistan, especially in Sindh and Balochistan, when girls hit puberty they are deemed fit to be married for reasons are connected to tradition, culture, customs, or exchange of goods and money between families (dowry). However, many families marry their minor daughters to a man thrice her age to settle disputes between families, and many children not yet born are promised in marriage with someone chosen by their parents even before their birth. Why such cruelty? Don’t they have the right to make choices for their own lives? Consequently, family members feel forced to marry the girl child for family honor, to avoid girls from having relationships and destroying family’s reputation. Many parents consider their daughters to be the property of their husbands and they don’t invest in their education and marry them off at a young age to be relieved of the financial burden.
I have seen a huge number of girls being married before age 15 in my province Balochistan. Even many of my classmates in school are now married who had quit their education after marriage and started their married life. When they are asked about it the answer is they were never asked by family, rather their marriages were fixed and they were just informed. Many kids agree to marry only to put henna on their hands, wear fancy clothes and high heels, they don’t understand that marriage is a huge responsibility which their fragile shoulders are not fit to carry at such a young age.
Early marriages rob these little girls of their childhoods and they are forced to abandon their education after they are married. Boys are also married before the age of 18, and have to work, make money and provide for their families at such a young age.
The trend of early marriage has lead our country to illiteracy and lower level of education. It damages a child’s mental, social and physical health.
Early marriages lead to early pregnancy of girls who face complications during pregnancy and childbirth, results in higher rates of death than adult women. Childbirth is the leading cause of death among young girls. Child marriage results in high rates of maternal and child mortality and this is one of the key reasons that Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio still stands at 276 per 1,000,000 live births and Pakistan’s newborn mortality rate is at 55 per 1,000 live births.
As a 16-year-old girl, I know how bad it feels to be married off at such a tender age. We need to understand that girls and boys both have every right to their bodies and their minds. Our education should be the first priority for parents, not our marriages.
Some justify child marriage on religious grounds and some families being extremely religious marry off their kids to earn grace and mercy. Children are married according to the religious practices and the age is given no consideration. The religious confusion should be removed.
People should understand that we are girls, not toys. We want to live our lives to the fullest. Society as a whole needs to understand the harm child marriages bring to the life of children, family and community.