PESHAWAR: Child marriages are rampant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa mainly due to poverty, revealed a recent research.

The ‘qualitative study of the identification of the infleuncers and drivers of child marriages in KP’ called for steps to check child marriages, including amendment to relevant laws and enactment of new ones and their strict enforcement, for setting 18 years as the minimum age for marriage of both men and women and punishing its violators.

It was conducted and published by Blue Veins organisation with the support of the Trocaire and Australian government.

The research said a significant number of people in communities had some level of knowledge of potential risk associated with the practice of child marriage in terms of maternal mortality, childbirth related problems and other issues but living in extreme poverty without access to basic needs, living in an abusive and discriminating environment, being out of school and unemployment were some of the reasons, which pushed girls and boys into early marriages.

“We found out during the study that many families had no choice but get their daughter or son married at an early age and reason was poverty,” said Qamar Naseem of the Blue Veins. He also mentioned a lack of support mechanism for the survivors of child marriages in the province.

Imran Takkar, a child rights activist, said social, economic and cultural issues might be the reason of the practice but a law was needed to curb such practice as it further creates many issues for a child who is forced into marriage. There should be law along with awareness and other steps by the government to create an environment where a child could enjoy her or his childhood.

Ijaz Khan, who is the deputy chief protection officer at the Child Protection Commission of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, highlighted around 150 cases about minor girls being sold in the name of marriage and some even forced into prostitution by their so-called husbands.

The study conducted in different communities of seven districts, including Peshawar, Mardan, Mansehra, Shangla, Bannu, Swat and Dera Ismail Khan, explored the community perception and found out it existed in selected districts.

It showed that poverty was the main cause of prevalence of child marriages as girls were not considered to be contributors to family’s finances and that they were also a burden among many other discriminatory beliefs about girls. He said the commission took that kind of incidents as violence against children and file cases against the culprits.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2018