Early marriages are defined as a relationship in which one or both partners are younger than eighteen. These marriages continue to exist in many places despite attempts to end them. They do not only have a negative impact on individuals – by taking away their childhood and future possibilities from them – but these marriages also impact families and society at large.


Early marriages impact both girls and boys but over the world the number of girls who are married off at a young age is much higher than boys. Pakistan is one of the countries where early marriages are prevalent despite laws like the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 (CMRA) which is implementable in Federal territories, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, restricts the legal age to marry to 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls in Pakistan. The Punjab Marriage Restraint Act, 2015 sets the same age limit. While the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, that sets the legal age to marry for both girls and boys to 18 years old.

In this article we will be discussing early marriages, their causes and effects on the well-being of children and overall society and how on an individual level we can act to prevent these marriages.

1. Causes of Early Marriages

While inequality between men and women in the society is the main cause of early marriages, there are various reasons behind prevalence of early marriages in Pakistan ranging from cultural values and financial factors like poverty.

In Pakistan, fathers are considered as the head of the family or usually the eldest brother after father’s death. This gives them the authority to take decisions for their daughters or sisters, such as who and when they should marry.

Another factor for early marriages is the poverty in Pakistan. Communities in rural areas lives below the average poverty line and such difficult financial situations forces parents to marry off their daughters at young age as she would be someone’s else responsibility, who will look after her.

2. Effects on Society

Early marriages do not only have far reaching effects on the physical, mental, and emotional health of the person who is being married off at an early age, but they also have severe negative consequences for society.

a. Educational Impact

One of the foremost negative impacts of early marriage is depriving girls of their education. In Pakistan, it is considered that woman should only be involved in household matters such as taking care of husband, children, preparing meals for family. Since girls are engaged in household work, they find it very difficult to continue their education and hence, drop out of school or college, limiting their educational and personal growth. Unfortunately, it contributes to overall deteriorating of the society, as these girls, if given the opportunity to grow, could become contributing members of the society.

b. Health Impact

Child brides have significant risk to their health, including difficulties giving birth and throughout pregnancy. Child brides are more likely to experience maternal mortality, injuries during childbirth, and other health complications because of their young age and physical immaturity. In addition, low birth weight newborns and infant death are frequent results of early pregnancies. As per studies done, a 10% decrease in child marriages will result in 76% decrease in the maternal mortality rate.

c. Economic Impact

Early marriage prevents girls from going to school and getting jobs. When girls are married off early, they often rely on their husbands or families for money, making it hard for them to earn their own income and help their families financially. This lack of education and work opportunities slows down the economy and keeps families poor for generations.

d. Social Impact

Early marriages continue unfair treatment in society and harmful ideas about genders. Girls and women have less control and freedom in families, especially when they are married off young. Also, girls who marry early often lose connections with friends, making them more likely to suffer from emotional distress, abuse and exploitation.


3. Punishment for Child Marriages

The punishments for parents/guardians, nikah registrar for conducting child marriages and adult contracting marriages with child are as under,


ParentsNikah RegistrarAdult Contracting Marriage with Child
PunjabPunjab Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 2015
  • Up to six months in prison
  • 50,000 Rs. fine
  • Up to six months in prison
  • 50,000 Rs. fine
  • Up to six months in prison
  • 50,000 Rs. fine
SindhSindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013
  • Minimum two years in prison, maximum three years
  • Fine
  • Minimum two years in prison, maximum three years
  • Fine
(Applicable to adult male only)
  • Minimum two years in prison, maximum three years
  • Fine

Federal Territories Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and


Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
  • One month of imprisonment
  • 1,000 Rs. fine
  • One month of imprisonment
  • 1,000 Rs. fine
  • One month of imprisonment
  • 1,000 Rs. fine


4. Steps to Take to End Early Marriages

Early marriages are a serious issue and have a far lasting impact on individuals and society which is why it is extremely important for all of us to work towards ending them.

Here are a few steps you can take to on individual level to help with ending early marriages,


a. Raise Awareness

 We can talk to people specifically parents around us about the implications of early marriages.

  • Educate parents on the importance of education for girl child and its impact on their growth and development,
  • Share information and resources regarding free schools and scholarships with them so their financial situation does not become the cause of their girl child’s dropping out of school,
  • Spread awareness regarding early marriage laws in Pakistan and their penalties. 

b. Help Families which are under Financial Stress

Poverty is the major factor that causes girls to end their education as parents feel they are better off getting married. If you know someone around you that needs financial aid for education, you can contribute or ask your friends and family to support their education. This money can help them in certain ways such as,

  • Pay their school/college/university tuition fees.
  • They can buy their books.
  • It can help them buying school uniforms.

Note: There are different scholarships programs that completely or partially pay school, college fees or in some cases provide stipends to the students.

You can get information about these scholarships here

c. Donate Used Books and Uniform

One most basic way to help these girls is to donate your used books and uniforms. There are certain families that cannot afford to buy books and uniforms for their children and our little acts of kindness can go a long way in achieving their children’s dreams.

d. Reporting Early Marriage

If you know a child around you that is being forced to marry, take a stand for them. Its our collective responsibility to break this cycle of early marriages. If you are in Pakistan and you witness any kind of child abuse, you can report it to authorities through the following resources,

TerritoryOrganizationContact Number
CountrywideMinistry of Human Rights1099
Sahil Head Office Helpline



Legal Aid Society0800-70806
SindhChild Protection Authority



Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC)1102
BalochistanChild Protection Unit, Balochistan Police081-9201262
PunjabChild Protection and Welfare Bureau042-1121
Ombudsperson Punjab1050
Khyber PakhtunkhwaChild Protection and Welfare Commission1121


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