Research on identification of triggering factors of child marriages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Launched

child marriages

Child marriage is an extremely serious problem in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that has resulted in drastic issues that has effected many lives of under-age girls. United Nations (UN) children’s fund says 21 percent of Pakistani girls are married by the age of 18, and 3 percent before 15. The situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is even worse where Annual Report 2012 of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that 74% girls are married before the age of 18. Child marriages have devastating effects on the physical and mental health, education, employability and economic conditions of the children.

Today a seminar was organized by Blue Veins Under a project “Policy advocacy and research to strengthen implementation of pro-women legislation and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) response services in KP” with assistance from Australian Government and Trócaire. The aim of the seminar was to share the findings of the research focusing on identification of influencers and drivers of child marriages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Qamar Naseem- Program Coordinator Blue Veins shared with the participants the objectives of the research and mentioned that the research is first of its kind in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The study was conducted with aim to analyze the dynamics leading to child marriage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Blue Veins anticipates that this research will be significant in the advancement of the local strategies and other actions targeted towards ending child marriage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and relevant stakeholders can use it to update their responses to end child marriages.” He added.

Qamar Naseem stated that Child Marriage is a complex phenomenon which constitutes multiple and grave violations of children’s rights and restricting their opportunities for full realization of their potentials. It is both a symptom and a cause of ongoing development challenges, as the practice violates the human rights of boys and girls and further perpetuates the poverty cycle. The practice affects girls disproportionately compared to boys and the consequences are more severe for them. “This research explores the factors which promote the practice of child marriage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and to look into under what circumstances child marriage does exist and what civil society, legislators and policy makers can do to end it. The research also comprises several recommendations which can best suit the needs of the community”.

Asad Zia a journalist stated that “The media adds a human face to the issue. Hearing and understanding things from a young girl’s perspective encourages empathy in a way that research and facts are unable to. By using stories with emotional and personal content we can show the public and decision-makers that girls aren’t numbers, they are people.”

Mr. Imran Takkar- Child rights activist while speaking about the failure of government coordinator mentioned that it is very unfortunate that despite several promises the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to table legislation to standardize the legal age of marriage. “Amending or introducing new legislation on child marriage would not only be enough to address the issue of child marriages but more steps need to be taken by government to enforce mechanisms to guarantee eighteen as the minimum age of marriage for both males and females and to guarantee consent and impose appropriate sanctions on violators”. He said.

Dr. Yahya Ahmad- Member NCHR- KP while expressing his views on the findings of the research mentioned that this research reveals that child marriage is not purely a cultural practice but it involves various triggering factors. The issue is associated with community’s believes and other socio-economic issues. “The research contains variety of recommendations which can be very useful for policy makers and legislators. All the programs and initiatives designed to end child marriages need to engage widely held community perspective other than the established factors and should aim to reduce rates of child marriage and to provide better protection to girls by tackling the underlying causes.” He added.

Mr. Muhammad Ijaz (Deputy Chief- Child Commission KP) stated that “While intersecting oral collaboration between various sectors and programs can be an effective strategy to deal with the issue of child marriages, there is a lack of networking among government departments and NHRIs. Numerous sectorial initiatives are working but in isolation and without any effective coordination mechanism. Representatives of education, health, and other sectors have no viable networking and collaboration. To establish a holistic response government, civil society, NHRIs and other stakeholders has to work in an active consortium to end child marriages. The intersectional collaboration of this kind will support the development of more broad-based, holistic approaches to tackling the roots of the problem.

Mufti Abdul Jameel Mansoori stated that “In Islam, marriage contract (Nikah) can be signed only when the boy and girl fulfill two conditions, i.e. he/she is ‘Baligh’ (physically adult) and he/she is ‘Aaqil’ (mentally stable and mature). Unfortunately, our prayer leaders and parents only consider the first condition and ignore the second one.” “In most of the child marriages, either the boy or the girl or both are mentally immature and dependent on their parents for their needs. Sensitization through mass media campaigns is vital to minimize incidents of child marriage.” –He said.

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