Marriages at an early age remains a widespread practice in Pakistan. Since our society contains gender inequality considering girls inferior to boys thus forcing them to marry after their first periods. In, Pakistan one of three girls is married before even she is 18 years old. 3% of the girls are married before the age of 15. The society ignores the fact that girls do have dreams and future life goals same as boys do. Sadly, those dreams are shattered when they are not even allowed to complete their school after marriage.
Why it is practiced
Child marriages are mostly seen in the rural part of the country where illiteracy peaks and lack of awareness exists. There are other factors too that contributes towards this practice.
- Traditional customs: Swara, where girls are married off to resolve disputes or debt, continues in rural communities and is often sanctioned by a council of elders. Watta Satta (bartering for brides) and pait likkhi (marrying girls off before they are born or very young) also still occur.
- Gender norms: Deeply entrenched patriarchal norms continue to drive child marriage, and girls who marry late are often shamed for “deviating” from tradition.
- Family practices: Marriages among families or tribes (addo baddo) are still common in Pakistan. 34% of married 16-17 year old girls are married to a first cousin on their father’s side.
- Religion: Some Pakistani Muslims believe their religion requires them to marry off their daughters once they reach puberty. This also relates to a desire to protect a girl’s honor, and the high demand of young unmarried girls.
- Level of education: Dropping out of school early is both a cause and consequence of child marriage. A 2017 study shows that each year of additional secondary education reduces the risk of child marriage by 3.4% in Pakistan.
What does Islam say
In Islam there are different point of views related to child marriage . Our religion conveys whatever is most suitable and appropriate as a solution. Although Islam appreciates early marriages but that is to avoid teenagers from unlawful sex and sinful activities. There is no mention in Islam that anyone has the right to force their children into marriage because this ultimately leads to post marriage problems. Yet ,different scholars had different sayings as mentioned.
Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The scholars are unanimously agreed that the father may arrange a marriage for his young daughter without consulting her. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) married ‘Aa’ishah when she was six years old.
End quote from at-Tamheed, 19/98
Ismaa‘eel ibn Ishaaq (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The father may arrange a marriage for a young (daughter) according to the consensus of the Muslims, and that is binding on her.
End quote from at-Tamheed, 19/84
Ibn Shubrumah disagreed with that, as we shall see below.
It is not prescribed to arrange a marriage for a young girl unless there is a clear and real interest to be served by doing so. The same applies to young boys, but the ruling is emphasized more with regard to girls because a boy has the power of divorce (talaaq).
Issues and problems
Tying knots at an early age becomes a troublesome situation for both the boy and girl. An immature boy who has to manage his studies along with the pressure of his family can be depressing. He struggles to feed his family by doing odd jobs. This does not end here, fulfilling the demands of his wife and kids is another responsibility he has to look after.
While on the girl’s side, there also stands a mountain of problems. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood and future prospects. They are less likely to finish school and are at higher risk of domestic violence, abuse and health issues. Young girls aged 15-19 have had the highest reported cases of domestic violence in the last 12 months (24.3%). Child marriage also subjects girls to at-risk pregnancies, fistula, sexually transmitted infections or even death. Teen girls are also more likely to die from complications during childbirth than women in their 20s. Marrying at an early age also reduces a girl’s autonomy. One in ten young women aged 15-19 have a say in their own health care, in making major household purchases and visiting their own family or relatives.