Many cases also involve physical & sexual violence, abduction, threat of murder or murder. These kinds of marriages should be strictly discouraged and there is dire need of strict legislation along with media awareness campaign in stemming the trend of early & forced marriages, said Zia Ahmed Awan President of LHRLA/Madadgaar National Helpline in a training workshop.
LHRLA / Madadgaar National Helpline organized two day training workshop to build skills of National Helpline staffs (Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar & Quetta) on gender based violence focusing on early & forced marriages in Pakistan in collaboration with Canada Fund for Local Initiatives under the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development, (DFATD) Canada. Helpline staff were consisting on regional head & counselor of that particular helpline. Participants were introduced to early & forced marriage issue, gender sensitive counseling, and relevant national & international laws. The participants were informed that customs and traditions like Watta Satta, Vani, Swara, and Vulvar played a significant role in girls’ early & forced marriages. Girls are seen as a burden on the family, and are married off at an early age, because one of the causes of such marriages is poverty. Dispute settlement is another important reason; girls are given to solve disputes.
Zia Awan said, according to Madadgaar National Helpline’s database, in last year 2012 as many as 960 cases of early & forced marriages of women and children were reported. Out of which, 476 children were forced to marry and 208 children were fell prey of early & child marriage, whereas 276 women were forcibly married. Mostly cases were reported in Punjab.
Further he shared that in the first six months of current year 2013, as many as 506 cases of early & forced marriages of women and children were reported. Out of which, 198 cases of children’s forced marriage and 109 cases of child marriage were reported, whereas 199 women were forced to marry. Awan said, these facts & figure are just the tip of the iceberg and do not reflect the full image of the abuse and violence as most cases go unreported.
Pakistan is one of those countries where the legal age of marriage differs by sex, the age for women is lower. Under Pakistani law, the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, the legal age of marriage is 18 for males and only 16 for females. Early & child marriage should be prohibited and the legal age of marriage should be raised from 16 to 18.