Islamabad: Poverty and patriarchy in Pakistan "conspire to deprive girls of their childhood", a leading daily said Monday while dwelling on the emotional trauma of child marriage as well as the long-term physical repercussions that can be debilitating or even fatal.
More often than not, said an editorial in the Dawn, being born a girl in Pakistan carries with it inherent disadvantages - less access to education, healthcare, legal rights.
"However, nothing quite so devastatingly compounds these as early marriage. Aside from the emotional trauma of being cast into a relationship with adult responsibilities that a child is ill-equipped to handle, the long-term physical repercussions can be debilitating or even fatal," it said.
Citing a UN report, the daily said it paints a disturbing picture of child marriages in the world.
According to its findings, if current trends continue, within the next decade 142 million girls will be married by the time they are 18. This translates into 14.2 million each year, or 37,000 girls married each day. Studies suggest that around 30 percent of marriages in Pakistan are those of girls below 18, it added.
The UN report points out that approximately 5,000 cases of obstetric fistula occur every year in Pakistan, with young girls disproportionately affected.
"The condition, which is one of the risks associated with early childbirth, results in urinary or faecal incontinence to varying degrees. Although in many instances it can be surgically treated, the dismal healthcare facilities in much of the country mean that most of these young sufferers bear their condition in silence and shame, and are often, in a twist of cruel irony, spurned by their husbands as well," the editorial noted.
Though the legal age for marriage in Pakistan is 16 years, "evidence indicates that this law is repeatedly flouted especially where poverty and patriarchy conspire to deprive girls of their childhood", it added.