Pakistan is a patriarchal society where women’s independence varies according to their socioeconomic status and level of education. The family and clan remain significant social references and standing units. Parents are the primary providers of care and financial support for their children (even after they reach the age of majority), and it is socially and religiously acknowledged that parents have the authority to make decisions for their children, especially regarding marriage. There is a steady shift toward shared decision-making for the middle class, whereas the tendency remains stable for the upper class and the poor. Women and female children are relegated to a low status by poverty, patriarchal systems, negative sociocultural practices, and commercial interest. Religion, as a reference point, controls parts of daily life and behaviour patterns. Frequently, this framing is religio-legitimizing, and prevalent rituals and traditions are imposed to regulate social narratives, particularly regarding early and child marriage.

The act of forcing children into marriage violates human rights that hinder victims’ access to essential human needs, the basis of well-being and opportunities for the girl child. Boys also marry as minors, although girls are disproportionately affected by this phenomenon.

According to a global study, underage marriage’s effects on females are devastating. In cases of child marriage, neither the girl’s permission nor her age is considered. As a result, married children, particularly girls, frequently drop out of school and get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty – from parental to the marital home. In Pakistan, women typically marry before men. Most women (47%) get married by age 20, compared to only 14% of men. 29 percent of these women marry between the ages of 18 and 20.

Child marriage is a challenging issue to handle in Pakistan for several reasons. The strong institutionalization of social and religious standards comes first. Moreover, many provincial laws are inconsistent with federal law and are generally inadequately enforced. Moreover, Pakistani courts employ Sharia Law, which permits the marriage of postpubescent girls.

Children are considered commodities/enslaved people; tribal and feudal structures of society; lack of public awareness of the negative effects of child marriages; extreme poverty, internal trafficking; and a lack of political will on the part of the government. The inadequate and unresponsive birth registration system significantly contributes to child marriage. The birth registration of children, particularly girls, is never a priority, allowing for manipulation of the age of the child/girls at the time of marriage. In addition, no central, impartial, and powerful child rights bodies might oversee child rights violations, including child marriages.

The effects of child marriage are typically linked to health and nutrition, fertility and population growth, child mortality, educational attainment, labour force participation, women’s autonomy, and gender-based violence. The health and human rights perspectives are frequently used to advocate for the abolition of child marriage. Still, the negative effects of child marriage on a nation’s economic growth and development are frequently overlooked.

Social norms are also vital, with cultural and religious traditions playing an equally important role. In Pakistani culture, women are considered the family’s honour, and early marriage helps to protect this reputation. This is especially significant if young women have experienced sexual assault or engaged in premarital sex. According to Islam, marriage is required, and some groups contend that early marriage for females is a religious requirement. Due to the frequency of such practices, child marriage is firmly ingrained in the social fabric of Pakistani society.

Child marriage can negatively affect the future of young women. Child marriage increases girls’ likelihood of dropping out of school and the risk of domestic violence and abuse. In addition, because their bodies are not completely matured, child brides are more likely to experience high-risk pregnancies and birth difficulties. Child marriage significantly diminishes a woman’s autonomy and ability to influence significant decisions. Girls who marry as children suffer immediate and enduring repercussions. Initially, it usurps their autonomy and control over their own lives. In most cases, it forces kids out of school and denies them access to education, which has long-term consequences for their ability to obtain productive employment. Under religious, cultural, or social customs, their families take over their consent.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 defines it as a marriage consummated before reaching the legal age in Pakistan, which is eighteen for males and sixteen for females. Before April 2010, Pakistan’s Constitution’s Eighteenth Amendment and the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 served as the legal instrument to prevent underage marriages. It made child marriage illegal under Sections 4, 5, and 6.

To eliminate child marriage, everyone must collaborate to ensure that girls have access to school, health information, services, and education in life skills. The following measures can help to reduce the child marriages rate in Pakistan

  • Political advocacy for laws to raise the legal age of marriage from 16 to 18 without exception for both girls and boys.
  • Using data to customize interventions in regions where child marriage is prevalent.
  • Implementing empowerment programs for girls at risk or currently in child marriages.
  • Improve girls’ access to education options that are supported.
  • Educate and sensitize communities to the negative effects of child marriage on girls.

This can be accomplished through improved laws, the collection of evidence for further lobbying, the development of initiatives that encourage the empowerment of young women and girls, and the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services in several locations.

Pakistan should guarantee that young women and girls in child marriages have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services through local adolescent counseling centers and health facilities. In government-run adolescent counseling clinics, survivors of child marriage receive mental health services and stress management support.


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