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Call to end child marriages

LARKANA, Oct 26: Speakers at a seminar on child marriages have called upon the government to tighten the noose around the elements which encourage the practice of child marriages.

They said the countries where majority of population earned less than two dollars a day, child marriages were more than 75 per cent and girls from poor families were likely to be married twice before attaining the age of 18.

They were speaking at the seminar organised by the Sujag Sansar Organisation (SSO) at the Abdul Latif Nizamani Labour Hall here on Saturday.

Mashooque Birahmani, the chief executive of SSO, termed child marriages a serious problem in Sindh said that old traditions, an entrenched feudal system, lack of education, awareness and a host of other reasons were contributing to the continuance of this practice.

The journalists had played a vital role in uncovering incidents which in turn had sensitised the authorities concerned to acting against the characters behind this practice, he said.

He said the SSO since 2010 had succeeded in preempting 28 child marriage cases in Dadu district alone.

The speakers said that out of eight Millennium Development Goals, six were directly hindered by child marriages. They said that in 2010 some 13.5 million under-18 girls were married the world over and if not checked, 14.4 million girls below 18 would be married every year by 2030, they said.

Ms Hakimzadi Rustmani of SSO declared education as one of the significant catalysts for women empowerment which served as a natural barrier to child marriages.

She said that girls who married young did not get education and economic opportunities. Ultimately, they and their children were thrown into vicious cycle of poverty, she said.

Ghulam Nabi said that girls under 15 years of age were five times more likely to die during childbirth and 60 per cent babies born in child marriages were more likely to die in their first year.

He said that in Pakistan one woman died every 20 minutes during childbirth and the key cause was child marriage. In many developed and developing countries including neighbouring India, legal age for marriages of both bride and groom was 18 years but in Pakistan the legal age for girl was 16 and that for boy was 18, he said.

A social worker Wahab Pandrani, intellectual Bhao Dur Mohammad Buriro, poet Ms Nayab Sarkash Sindhi, Prof Manzoor Chajjiro and others termed the child marriage issue crucial which not only affected lives of the victims but also their families and finally resulted in social and economic imbalance.

They said that despite existence of a law on child marriages since 1929 the practice continued to this day. They called for creation of awareness among the masses and implementation of existing laws and urged elected representatives to make new laws to check child marriages and violence against women.

The speakers were unanimous in their opinion that unless outdated customs were curbed women empowerment would remain a dream. A video documentary on the subject was also shown on the occasion.