KARACHI - Half of the Pakistani women married before 18 years of their age and nine per cent women begin childbearing at 15-19 years, putting country on top in maternal mortality rate in South Asia.
This was stated by Shirkat Gah, a non-governmental organization, during a meeting of national media alliance titled ‘Continuing the Momentum for a Healthier Tomorrow’ held at a local hotel on Friday. “Pakistan tops maternal mortality rate in South Asia with 276 per 100,000 live births because of pregnancy complications. 64.6 per cent women in Pakistan are illiterate, 74 per cent are deprived of being the part of formal economy and their life expectancy is 66.1 per cent,” revealed by the NGO.
The participants were informed that infant and maternal mortality rate in Pakistan was higher than the other South Asian countries because of the early child marriage custom prevailed in the society. The research study of the Shirkat Gah conducted in two districts of Sindh - Matiari and Jacobabad, found the average age of marriage is between 12 to 14 years for girls.
Dr Tabinda Sarosh of Shirkat Gah while giving a presentation on the issue said the early child marriage was a crime. She underlined the need to make law fixing the 18 years age for marriage both for girl and boy in the country. She said it was necessary to implement laws related to women rights and to address the issue for a healthier and prosperous society, adding that law against domestic violence and sexual harassment and other were not being implemented.
Dr Tabinda went to say that even many police officers and judges were not aware of any legislation against the domestic violence and sexual harassment against women. She said it was the duty of the government to create an enabling environment for women within a framework based on equality and equity.
“Marginalised women, including poor, rural, minorities, migrants, internally displaced and adolescents remain at the lowest rung of the power dynamics in the society,” Dr Sarosh referred her organisation’s study.
Imran Shirvanee, a researcher and social activist, in his presentation said media did not give much coverage to the women issues especially the early child marriage and its negative impacts on mothers’ health. The participants highlighted the role of media in eradicating such practices. They believed that media could bring a change.
In June, two teenage sisters were murdered after they were accused of tarnishing their family's name by making a video of themselves dancing in the rain. The girls, aged 15 and 16, are seen running around in traditional dress with two other younger children outside their bungalow in the town of Chilas in Gilgit.
The sisters, named as Noor Basra and Noor Sheza, appear to break into dance and one even flashes a smile at the camera. However, when the footage was circulated via mobile phones, it caused outrage in the town. Last year four women are believed to have been killed by tribal elders for dancing and singing with men at a wedding party in the remote north-western village of Kohistan.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said at least 943 women and girls were murdered in 2011 for allegedly defaming their family’s honour. According to women's rights group, the Aurat Foundation, about 1,000 'honour' killings take place in Pakistan every year.