Forced marriages

The problem must be handled before it goes out of control

A forced marriage is simply a marriage in which either one or both the parties are not willing to tie the knot. In Pakistan, as cousin marriage is very common, mostly parents force their children to marry their nieces or nephews because they want strong relationships with their siblings. For this cause, they usually sacrifice the wishes of their children which is unethical and immoral. According to a general estimation, only one out of every ten girls is asked by her parents if she agrees to marry or not;while five out of ten boys are asked for their consent to marriage which means that forced marriages are a dilemma for both the genders, though females are worse hit..

On the other hand, a scientific research shows that cousin marriages are very dangerous to health as they can cause serious diseases to the children of the union. Despite the fact that everyone knows about the given scientific research, everyone keeps them unaware of it and keep wedding off their children.

Everyone, whether girl or boy, should be asked their consent for marriage, because it is a very critical affair. It can destroy the entire set-up of a family and can even cause deaths. It is due to these forced marriages that we have seen a rise in suicide rates across the country. If we do not end it here, I fear we can lose national assets in the near future. Federal and provincial governments need to think of it and practically implement laws to prevent forced marriages across the country, not merely on paper 

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One of the fatal diseases which comes with cousin marriages in particular is thalassemia. In recent times especially, we have witnessed a rise in thalassemia cases across the country. It simply spreads when both spouses have minor thalassemia, then their children are likely to get affected by major thalassemia. Many countries have got control over the spread of thalassemia, but Pakistan is yet to combat it. One way to stop it from spreading is having thalassemia tests before marriages, but due to forced marriages in mind, parents make excuses and skip the tests.

Besides this, mostly the undeveloped villages in Pakistan follow the wrong culture of forced marriages. Unfortunately, we can also observe that very young children are wedded off who still cannot understand the complications of a relationship like marriage. For example, when you ask these kids – both girls and boys – why they had been married at a young age, they cannot even comprehend that marriage has any such rules or age fixed or consent is material for marriages. Such marriages can even spoil the family bonding when they grow up.

Not only the villages, but urban people are also following suit. It is usually the family who selects or rejects the girl or boy for marriage. It seems more an exchange deal than a marriage. It is, in fact, in the universal human rights charter that consent should be taken from both, girl and boy, before they are married. But sadly, a lack of awareness regarding universal human rights and national laws regarding marriages keep pushing us more and more into the ditch of forced marriages.

Forced marriages have also affected the minorities in Pakistan. According to a 2019 record, approximately a thousand Christian and Hindu girls were compelled for marriage without their consent in Pakistan. Mostly people drive their children to get married when a rich family comes with a marriage proposal, because it is every parent’s dream that their children should get a happy life.

Hindus see the caste, religion and richness of the people and then accept the proposal without taking into consideration the will of their children. Because cousin marriages are not a right practice according to the Hindu religion, as cousins are deemed as brothers; they cannot marry with their cousins. However, they adopt the concept of richness which is wrong because happiness cannot be determined by being rich.

Everyone, whether girl or boy, should be asked their consent for marriage, because it is a very critical affair. It can destroy the entire set-up of a family and can even cause deaths. It is due to these forced marriages that we have seen a rise in suicide rates across the country. If we do not end it here, I fear we can lose national assets in the near future. Federal and provincial governments need to think of it and practically implement laws to prevent forced marriages across the country, not merely on paper.

Naveen Iqbal
The writer is a freelance columnist

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