The Silent Screams…
Today, I’m in peace but there was once when my sealed lips and tear-filled eyes pleaded for mercy. My silence questioned my worth, ‘Am I a piece of land sought to be used for purpose?’ My questions remained unrequited and I deceased to peace. You know, who am I? I am the one with sparkling eyes and babyish look, an eight-year-old girl who perished in urine rupture and internal bleeding on being married to a 40-year-old man. I am a victim of child bride.
My Lord sent me as a benediction, as pure as water. I am a woman. I know HE made me weaker than you but HE made you stronger to protect me, not to rule over me, so that I am not supposed to tackle hardships. I am a gift, not a burden. I have the right to breathe in the freshness of freedom.
She is not the only case. There are many others fighting; sometimes for their rights, and sometimes for their survival.
A UNICEF report claims 70% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 16. In comparison, according to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children 2009” report, 47% of India’s women are married before the legal age of 18; and in Bangladesh 63%. In Nepal 68.3% are married before the age of 15.
Women are not commodities, they are human, the beauty of this world. Women are mothers, not slaves. Women are being exploited on the basis of money and power. Is a woman’s life worth only a few thousand rupees? She’s beautiful. Is it her luck or bad luck?
In many developing countries, a young daughter is like a debit card before she gets married and domestic slave after it.
The younger you are, the higher is your price. What a compliment! You call this security for your daughter’s life, respect and future. Oh Please!
Parents see early marriage as future security for their beloved daughters. They believe that they’re not mature enough to make their life’s big decisions. Isn’t it a sort of joke! That she is not mature enough to have a say in choosing her life partner, but mature enough to tackle responsibilities.
Bride price and no dowry; is it not amazing that a marriage can lessen your economic burden, plus you can have money to support the rest of the family.
‘It’s our tradition.’
‘I got married at 13 just because my grandmother had forced my parents to marry me to a distant relative who was very close to my grandmother. And she insisted that it is a tradition of our family,” said another girl.
‘We’re afraid. What if our daughter becomes a victim of the high crime rate and loses her virginity before her marriage? Then who would marry her? People would not let us live in peace,” said the mother of a 16-year-old girl, Khushab.
Many times girls are forced to marry at a very early age to prevent them from getting into any relationship, and to keep the honor of the family. Keeping the honor of the family also leads to high honor killing rates in Pakistan.
The custom in Pakistan which leads to child marriage is called swara or vani. It involves village elders solving family disputes or settling unpaid debts by marrying off girls. No one reports it. If the police receive a report, they do not arrest anyone because they are bound by Islamic Sharia Law as well.
‘Does Islam encourage Child Marriages?’
“November 25th, 2005; that day I didn’t really understand what had happened to me. I was 10 years old and married to a man of rival clan with my two other sister just to settle a blood feud as ordered by the Jirga of Sultanwala, District of Mianwali,” said Sajida, with her two elder sisters.
In South Asia and Africa the highest child marriage rates are observed in Niger with 75%, then Chad with 72%, Bangladesh 66%, Guinea 63%, and Mali 55%. Another thing that these countries have in common is that they are all Muslim-majority countries. Now the first question that arises is, ‘does Islam encourage child marriages?’
In India there are around 172 million Muslims. They do not respect any of the Indian laws restricting child marriage, because ulema or Islamic scholars call it un-Islamic to define a minimum age of marriage.
Health hazards for the victims of child marriage
“I don’t know what childhood is, since I had to take responsibilities like a mature women at the age of 11. Now I want my children to enjoy each and every moment of their childhood,” said Irum who was married to a 61-year-old man in Chiniot when she was just 11 years old.
Child marriage leads to high illiteracy rates, a high maternal mortality ratio, a high population growth rate, higher risk of HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, and also more dangerous effects of gender discrimination.
Women who are the victims of child marriage suffer many health hazards. Pregnant girls aged under 15 are five times more likely to die. The survivors may suffer fistula. The top three maternal death causes in Pakistan are results of child marriage: postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), sepsis (major infection) and eclampsia (hypertensive disorder).
These women also go through psychological issues most of their lives because of domestic violence, fear, marital rape and social and economic dependency. They also become targets of acid attacks. Around 150 cases are reported each year. It is becoming increasingly common in Pakistan.
Many others face social distress as early marriages lead to higher rates of divorce and separation. Others are widowed at a very young age because their spouses are usually much older than them.
Women are being deprived of their fundamental rights, which are given to them by their religion and law, but denied them by the male-dominated society where they live. CEDAW’s article 5 eliminates all ideas of inferiority or superiority between sexes and gives full rights to everyone.
What is it? Are we sleeping? Have we become selfish? Or we just don’t care? What if it happens to your daughter? Why don’t we stand up and speak against these sick people?
I just don’t believe this. There are laws but not enforced, who is responsible? It’s me, it’s you, it’s everyone who would read these words printed in black ink, but would not think, why only I choose to write about it.
It’s all left with a question mark, for everyone.
I request you to have compassion for those girls, whose eyes have dried, whose lips are meant to be sealed or they would be hanged in the name of RELIGION, TRADITION AND BURDEN.
Author: Mahnoor Sarwar
Editor: Marjory Linardy
Mahnoor Sarwar is a reader and has sent us this blog for publishing.Would you like to write for us too? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date08.01.2015 | 16:16