Throughout the world, marriage is regarded as a moment of
celebration and a milestone in adult life. Sadly, as this Digest makes clear,
the practice of early marriage gives no such cause for celebration. All too
often, the imposition of a marriage partner upon a child means that a girl or
boy’s childhood is cut short and their fundamental rights are compromised.
Every year, an estimated 15
million girls under 18 are married worldwide, with little or no say in the
matter. Girls Not Brides studies the problem and is working to find workable
solutions. They know that education and empowerment for girls are the first
steps. You can help by sharing the facts or donating to projects
making a difference.
62 million girls are denied
an education all over the world just for hunting of early marriages.
On average, 30 percent of
women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some
form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.
Early Marriage by Gender The Population Council prepared
a representative report on youth and adolescents in Pakistan, and published it
in 2002. It was compiled after interviewing youth from different households;
the younger cohort comprised of adolescents aged 15-19 and thus within the
sphere of childhood. The study shows that early marriages affect girls far more
than they affect boys; in the ages 11 to 21, a Pakistani female is far more
likely to get married than is a Pakistani male.
Early marriages are far more prevalent in Pakistan’s
rural areas than in its urban areas. In the aforementioned study it was found
that 58 percent of rural females and 18 percent of rural males marry before
reaching the age of 20, as compared to 27 percent of urban females and 5
percent of urban males.7 Alongside rural/urban differences in early marriage
trends, there are also significant variations in early marriage statistics
between and across Pakistan’s four provinces. In the available statistics, Sindh
shows the highest percentage of early marriages in rural areas, with 72 percent
of females and 26 percent of males in the selected sample, married before 20.
Sindh also has a high percentage of females in urban
areas married by 20, reaching 36 percent. Balochistan closely follows Sindh in
terms of early rural marriages (22 percent of males and 63 percent of females
married before 20), and has the highest percentage of urban early marriages,
with 9 percent males and 56 percent females marrying before 20. Punjab stands
out as the province having the most females marrying at later ages in both
rural and urban areas. Only 50 percent of the women in rural and 20 percent of
women in urban areas of Punjab marry before twenty. The men in the urban areas
of Punjab also marry late, with only four percent marrying before 20.
KPK has the record for the least percentage of rural men
marrying early, with only 8 percent of men marrying before twenty. A much
higher percent of rural women in KPK, however, marry early equaling 63 percent.
In Pakistan, traditionally, most marriages are arranged
by the elders of the family. Choosing one’s own spouse is seen as devious and
such opportunities rarely exist for young people; marriage is not a romantic
bond but simply a social requirement. The family unit is extended. Girls, once
married, are often seen as child-bearers and homemakers rather than as
individuals; they are the main victims in early marriage arrangements, often
purposely married at young ages in order to make the most of their days of
fertility and beauty.
These statistics provide us with worrying figures
regarding the issue. It is not just a problem that exists in remote areas of
Pakistan, but is widely prevalent, affecting over a third of Pakistan’s
adolescents, and continuing in a vicious cycle to affect their children.
Marriage, a cause of celebration around the world, becomes a black hole of
misery when young children are married. Childhood is a time of innocence,
adolescence a time of storm and stress, both stages where the child needs care
and development opportunities. The environment that these children are
subjected to in these delicate stages, forever scars their selves. The problem
is real, and it is all around Pakistan.
The results show that the school enrollment rate improves
with household income, but surprisingly the gender disparity in school
enrollment becomes more acute for relatively richer households. Analogous to
prior expectations, disparity in school enrollment worsens with age of children
involved. Despite stark differences in educational enrollment between boys and
girls, no statistical disparity occurs in the educational expenditure between
boys and girls from the bottom 75 percent of the households that send their
children to school. On the other hand, there is significant difference in education
expenditure between boys and girls that come from the top 10 percent of these
households, boys being favored over girls. No statistical evidence suggests
systematic disparity in the intra-household allocation of resources between
girls and boys. Although the disparity is undeniable, its relationship to
household income appears to be the inverse of the study’s hypothesis. Poorer
girls are more likely than rich girls to be in school. It appears that rich
households may tend to be more prone to assert traditional gender-roles, which
offer potential explanations for future research on whether a rich girl and her
parents are less inclined to perceive education as a vehicle to the girl’s