At least 708 forced, early marriages last year

KARACHI: At least 708 boys and girls fell prey to forced and early marriages in Pakistan in the year 2013 which included 264 such cases in Punjab, 199 in Sindh, 143 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 102 cases in Balochistan.

The statistics were given by Founder of Madadgaar Helpline, Zia Ahmed Awan at a roundtable conference titled ‘Addressing Gender Base Violence: Focusing on early and forced marriages in Pakistan’ at Madadgaar Helpline office on Friday.

Civil society members including Zahida Hashim from SOS, Coordinator of Sindh Ombudsman Mohammad Ali Shah, Child Rights Movement member G H Madni Memon were also present.

Awan said that 684 cases of forced and early marriages were reported in 2012. “276 forced marriage cases were reported in 2012 which increased up to 284 in the year 2013.” He said that these were the cases which were reported in media; however, the exact figures would be far more than this.”

Awan highlighted national and international laws that forbid parents and couples to get married before they attain age of 18 years. “Pakistan has signed international charters and it should implement relevant laws.”

Shedding light on the causes of early and forced marriages, he said that droughts, earthquakes, floods and tribal cultures were the main reasons behind forced and early marriages. “During natural disasters, hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes and during this period they consider their girls as a burden and try to marry them in order to send them to safer location”

He said that this mindset had also caused an increase in early marriages in the country. He said that every religion including Islam has given rights to girls to marry on free will. “Islam gives right of choice to girl and no marriage could be acceptable unless girl expresses her consent,” he said.

Zahida Hashim said that there are many cases of children who were in love with each other and ran away from their homes but after not getting married due to age barriers were sent to SOS. “These children face a dilemma that neither they can marry each other nor they could go back home due to the life threats.”

Senior official of Madadgaar, Samreen Naz said people involved in forced marriages easily get away due to flaws in our laws. She said that the government should make amendments in these laws in order to increase conviction rate. She further said that early marriages should be termed as criminal case and these marriages be annulled.

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