ISLAMABAD: Child marriage is common in Pakistan, with around 18% of girls married before the age of 18.
This was emphasized by a speaker during an event organized as part of International Women’s Day.
Around 11,000 mothers in Pakistan die from pregnancy-related complications. The country is among those with the highest maternal mortality rates.
In addition, 9 million girls do not have access to education and more girls (37%) are out of school in the country than boys (27%). Similarly, only 25% of young women are part of the labor force compared to 96% of men in the 25-29 age group.
The Senior Director (Programs) of the Population Council, Dr. Ali Mir, said during an interview with participants of the event, the theme of which was “Breaking Prejudices”. It was organized by the Population Council with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Journalists learned about socio-cultural biases and how they affect women’s reproductive health rights and aggravate practices such as child marriage.
On top of that, 8 million women face gender-based violence in a year in Pakistan, Dr. Mir said, adding, “The media can be an effective tool to break down prejudice against women and promote family planning by as a socially and religiously acceptable practice. . It can provide insight into how child marriage undermines women’s health, prosperity and empowerment. »
Researcher and social activist Fauzia Yazdani said Pakistan is a signatory to the international conventions under which Pakistan is bound to stop underage marriages and protect children’s rights. However, she says, despite this, 4% of girls marry before the age of 15 and 18% before the age of 18. Poverty, food insecurity, girls’ health and economic expenses and lack of work opportunities in safe environments are the main drivers of child marriage, she said.
Samia Ali Shah, Project Director at the Population Council, said: “The theme of International Women’s Day (BreakTheBias) calls for an end to social discrimination that seriously affects women’s health, especially reproductive health.
“There is a need to empower women through education so they can make informed decisions about their reproductive health. According to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey (2018-19), only 10% of women can make decisions about their health in Pakistan. »
In his remarks, UNFPA Program Specialist Jamil Ahmed said, “The mortality rate during pregnancy and childbirth in Pakistan is the highest in the entire region and there is a dire need to reduce it through advocacy. , the implementation of legislation and a positive change in social behaviour”.
Posted in Dawn, March 9, 2022