Marriage is an institution which every mortal soul on this Heavenly earth wishes to or at least hopes to be bound in such an unbreakable bond which is to last forever. We are irreducibly relational creatures. We are all created for building connections and relationships – relationship with God, with friends and community, and in many cases with a spouse and children. It’s what makes the world go round…no wait, isn’t that money? Hang on a second…it’s definitely love. All wrapped together with a ribbon on it, eh?
Well in that case, I’ll rephrase and emphatically state that it plays a major role in taking the world forward through the blossoming and expanding of the human race.
What do you presume is the suitable or rather acceptable age to be wedded off in? Late teens? Early 20s? Mid 20s? Any numeral below 35? Such a question will undoubtedly be met with avid responses accompanied by vibrant theories surrounding it. Let’s take it in the opposite course, shall we?
When is it deemed or considered to be unacceptable to be married? Under what circumstance and in what age do vows of ‘to have and to hold’ become an evil burden? A forced treaty? A ‘in the spur of the moment’ decision? Perhaps, an event which could have been put off until a little later in one’s precious life. For many, the “face” of early marriage is usually a young girl, often uneducated and unprepared both emotionally and physically to endure the practical and cultural responsibilities of a marriage.
What’s the Rush?
In order to be independent and build a solid foundation for your future, education is a necessity. A proper education is rightfully acquired when an individual reaches the age of around 22 – 25 give and take a year or too, depending upon the field of interest. Yet, in many Pakistani communities you witness marriages taking place between girls and boys so juvenile and innocently immature that you can’t help but speculate why they couldn’t wait until they had attained the much needed, erm…dexterity? Oh all right, sensibility!
It’s a common belief that a girl should be married off at an early age; crux of the matter…biological clock is ticking away you see. If this joyous occasion is delayed for a longer period of time, then ultimately all her other life’s blessings will approach at a snail’s pace, diminishing her happily ever after. Parents appear to be eager beavers, intending nothing but to wash their hands clean from their required duties as soon as possible.
There are plenty of great marriages that began when people were very young, many of which last for 60 or even 70 years and counting. My own mother was only a mere 19 years of age when she got married.
Some young people will move mountains to make their marriage work and others won’t. In fact from a statistical standpoint, divorce rate is highest among couples who married too young. So perhaps one of the greatest disadvantages of people who married too young is rate of divorce, which is about 50% or higher.
There are additional troubles with couples that married too young, chiefly when they married before having definitive plans about how to progress through life. Financial difficulties are not made better by two people who don’t yet have reasonable means to support themselves, especially if they’re completely on their own with utility bills and what not. Given the high cost of living, it isn’t always feasible for two people to adequately earn the support they need and do things like plan great careers or stay in school.
It’s also anybody’s guess how a person will change and grow once they’re out of their teens. 18 year olds may have some character bents, but the thought that they are fully formed and have all their ideas in place is pretty silly, given the vast changes that occur as people mature in their 20s. How a person is now can change dramatically in the course of a few years, and these changes don’t always contribute to healthy marriages.
Many people who married too young cite how difficult it is to plan two different careers at the same time. Even when people have similar goals, seeing these fulfilled may mean making choices that put one person at a distance from the other, and long distance marriages are not easy to maintain. Often, one member of the couple had to give up on personal goals to see a spouse’s goals fulfilled. This may not be the case with everyone, but it is a stark reality.
Marriage means that your considerations about what you’d like to do right now and in the long term have to take into account another person, who may have very different ideas about what he or she would like to do. This can be limiting and mean you must compromise or give up doing some of the things you like when they don’t make practical sense for the couple. Though you are still an individual, part of you must always consider that your life is made up of a partnership along with the whole enchilada of both the respective in-laws. While some couples that married too young have created successful teamwork, its clear many others failed miserably or had to sacrifice their needs for the sake of the team.
The Abominable Child Marriage System:
There are scores of evils associated with child marriage. To start off with, it maliciously snatches the childhood away and thrusts a child into adulthood well before her time. It directly threatens the health and wellbeing of young girls as complications from pregnancy and childbirth are cited as the main cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19. As the figures of girls who are married as children rises, the numbers of children bearing children will increase and deaths among young girls will mount, further deteriorating the child and maternal mortality rates.
In the case of Pakistan, religion is also cited as a reason for child marriages as it is considered advisable to marry girls off soon after they reach puberty. This, however, is just an excuse. Medical science informs us that puberty only marks the beginning of a gradual transition into adulthood. The poor girls’ bodies have not fully ripened when they are given away in marriage which is nothing short of prostitution.
With early marriage comes early pregnancy. A young girl, physically unable to deliver a baby, may experience an obstructed labor sometimes lasting up to four or five days. Without access to emergency obstetric care or a “C section,” she may lose her life. If she is lucky, she survives but delivers a stillborn baby and experiences so much internal pelvic damage that she leaks urine (or feces, or both) continuously, for the rest of her life. That is nothing short of sadism.
Girls’ vulnerability to child marriage increases during humanitarian crises when family and social structures are disrupted and many parents marry off their daughters to bring the family some income or to offer the girl some sort of protection. Humanitarian workers noticed a surge in child marriages during the internally displaced person’s crisis brought on by the floods of 2010 and 2011.
United Nations (UN) agencies should be commended for coming up with quality research from time to time, which ought to serve as harsh reminders to governments across the world that they need to pull their socks up. The UN Population Fund recently released a report titled “Too Young to Wed” on child marriage, which should alarm all governments in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The two regions have the highest and second-highest percentage of women, respectively, who are married off before they turn 18 years of age.
International conventions declare that child marriage is a violation of human rights because it denies children the right to decide when and who to marry. A country like Pakistan, which is a participant of the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) and has ratified the ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (CRC), needs to align its local laws regarding child marriage, as both conventions categorically state that appropriate measures will be taken to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children, such as child marriage.
Religion also asks its followers to educate their children and to follow the path of moderation and if any attention is paid to such recommendations, child marriage would become a distant dream.
The correct or proper age for getting hitched is and will remain fiercely arguable but ultimately, in my opinion any age below 24 is rather young; below 20 is much too young. You’re still in the phase of getting to know yourself as an individual and the world we live in. I most certainly am not the same person I was a decade ago; make that five years ago. Change is good as long as it’s for the betterment of you or society and in due course the world at large. Marriage isn’t always chocolates, hearts and love songs and neither is life a bed of roses. A love that’s beyond a shadow of doubt true has no need to be proven today. It will be proven tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and next year, and decades from now.
Think before you leap…