Early Marriages- a threat rather than child protection
According to a study using data from 40 Demographic and Health Surveys, early marriages are most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In Pakistan, the practice of early marriage or child marriage has been significant and has now taken shape of customary practices including that of ‘selling girls’ into marriage i.e. exchange marriages, whereby disputes are settled by exchange of the girls of the family. Even though both the sexes may be suffering from forced marriage in many cases, it is usually the girl who suffers the most.
The reason for this is that early marriage typically results in childbearing at a very young age. This poses great health risks for the girl and not being prepared for such a great responsibility so early in her life, she might go through immense psychological pressure. Although there are many repercussions of early marriage, this article particularly deals with the negative effects it has on the reproductive health of the girl.
These girls are faced with repeated pregnancies and unplanned babies, which results in a high number of abortions taking place. The impact of one abortion on the young girl is so traumatizing that she would rather choose not to have another baby. And to add to all of this, the inaccessibility to maternal and child health services and the issue of poverty in case the girl belongs to a poor family worsens things more for her! Most of the girls belonging to the rural areas are not even aware of contraception so they opt for abortions as the only resort, and when post-abortion complications arise they lack the awareness about the post-abortion care services that they can approach and avail. This sad situation results in numerous maternal deaths and poor health status among women.
In the case of early marriages, girls are not even mature enough to fight for their own rights or to speak for themselves-they feel that their husbands own them and if he wants more children then she has to bear them! However, even the Holy Quran tells us that nothing is more important than the woman’s health. If her health does not allow her to keep giving babies then it is simply not right for her to keep suffering. Some parents feel that if they get their child married at an early age they are protecting them. However, the fact is that this results in lost development opportunities, hinders personal growth and increases the chances of poor health and limits life options.
Restricted mobility of these girls, lack of intimacy with their husbands and lack of resources for counseling causes these young girls many internal problems. Motherhood is viewed by them as their sole purpose in life and they seem to have no life of their own. With her childhood already limited due to early marriage, she is burdened with the responsibility of handling a man whom she doesn’t even know that well and pregnancies that she is unable to handle. She has lost the joy of celebrating marriage which is the dream of every young girl-and all at the expense of her health!
It is high time that we realize the detrimental effects of early marriage on the girls in our society, and try to do our part in spreading awareness about the maternal and child health services, the sexual and reproductive counseling that we can make available to them and save their lives…we need to work towards eradication of the process of wasting productive lives in order for Pakistan to benefit from each individual born on its land-an asset we must save!
The author of the above blog is an ungrad student from Institute Of Business Administration, Karachi