“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” says Babatunde Osotimehin, M.D, Executive Director, UNFPA. If the current levels of child marriages does not alter, every day 39,000 girls will marry too young in between 2011-2020. Most of them would be under the age of 15 (WHO, 2013).
This is a global problem. Every day, various such cases occur. Some of the cases get attention by the media and the rest go unnoticed. Recently, a 10 year old Yemeni girl was married to a 40 year old man, who died after intercourse. No one charged her husband for this offence and her parents who allowed that to happen.
In our cultural scenario, for various reasons child marriages do take place. Gender inequality, tradition and poverty are the main reasons for this inhuman practice.  For they strictly follow the primitive customs and traditions, child marriages are more common in the feudal community. Feudalism suppresses women, discourages their individual potential growth. Thus problems like gender inequality and poverty are the usual outcome. In the recent past, a 10-year-old girl was forcibly married to a 50-year-old man in Pakistan’s Punjab province under a custom in which a girl can be offered in marriage to resolve a feud (Hindustan Times, 2013).
Unfortunately, the problem does not end here. Child marriage comes with an unexpected menace for a little girl. Biologically, a girl child is more vulnerable to health risks related to early age pregnancy and childbirth problems. According to the UN, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 years in developing countries. UNICEF estimates some 50, 000 die, almost all in low- and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and newborn deaths are 50% higher among mothers under 20 than in women who get pregnant in their 20s.
Moreover, these girls are forced into frequent pregnancies and are not allowed to use contraceptives without the will of the spouse. Because of lack of education they do not have either the knowledge or the access to pregnancy prevention measures.
These children are more vulnerable to violence from their spouses rather than those who marry later. Especially, when the age gap between the bride and her spouse is wide, the chances of violence are more. “Child marriage marks an abrupt and often violent introduction to sexual relations,” (WHO, 2013).
At large scale, child marriages restrict girls to utilize their potential which affects their progress. Early marriages have also resulted in an immense increase in population which ultimately has deteriorating effects and a burden on the economy at the national level.
In Pakistan, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 is the basic law that is applicable to all the citizens of Pakistan. The age of marriage in Pakistan is 18 years for male and 16 years for female according to Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The difference in the age of male and female is discriminatory as the constitution of Pakistan Article 25 spells out “there should be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone”.Government of Pakistan should revise the act and increase the age of marriage at least 18 years for females. In any case even the existing law is not being implemented in letter and spirit.
Changing such behaviours and norms is very challenging for both government and the civil society organizations. In this respect, the role of media is very important in highlighting such issues and educating the communities about universal human rights.