Collaboration between the government, civil society and international partners is crucial in addressing this issue
The UN has recently highlighted a concerning fact: Asia still needs 55 more years to eliminate child marriage completely. This issue is particularly troublesome in Pakistan where child marriage remains prevalent despite efforts to combat it. Statistics presented in the UN report reveal a distressing reality for young girls in Pakistan. Despite the legal minimum age for marriage being set at 18, approximately 18% of girls are still reportedly married before reaching adulthood. This translates to nearly 19 million child brides in the country. Unreported cases are even more significant.
These numbers underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address the root causes of child marriage. Pakistan’s efforts to tackle child marriage have shown some progress, with the country ranking third in South Asia for reductions in child marriage prevalence. However, this progress is overshadowed by the persistence of the issue. The prevalence of child marriage indicates deep-seated social and cultural norms that perpetuate the practice, often driven by factors such as poverty, gender inequality, religious extremism and limited access to education. To accelerate the progress and eliminate child marriage for good, a multifaceted approach is required. Firstly, there must be increased awareness campaigns to educate communities about the negative consequences of child marriage, emphasising the importance of girls’ education and empowerment. Additionally, there is a pressing need to enforce existing laws more rigorously with stronger penalties. Simultaneously, the government should invest in improving access to quality education, particularly for girls in marginalised communities, to provide them with opportunities for personal and economic growth.
Collaboration between the government, civil society and international partners is crucial in addressing this issue effectively. While the UN report’s projections indicate a long road ahead for Asia to eliminate child marriage, Pakistan must intensify its efforts to accelerate progress and protect the rights of its children.