June 10, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
The Institute of Public Health (IPH) on Friday held a seminar on women’s reproductive health rights, in which speakers emphasized that one major factor to poor health among women is early and underage marriages, which should be discouraged.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Secretary Welfare and Bait-ul-Maal Punjab Sumaira Samad said Voice that the provincial government was seriously considering raising the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18.
“Increasing the minimum marriage age has been a point of discussion on the official level for a long time. We also believe that the minimum marriage age should be 18, and we believe it will be made so soon,” she said.
She further stated that despite the current economic crisis, the Punjab Government is trying to continue women’s welfare and development projects signed with international organizations.
“During a financial crunch, support for the most important sectors are prioritized, and therefore it is a difficult time for the Government [to carry out an undertaking]. However, at the same time, it has access to many organizations that can support it, including those that work on issues pertaining to the rights of women and children.”
Dr. Zarfishan Tahir, Dean of the IPH provided that women were most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Women braved the storm in every aspect during the pandemic, from rearing their children and supervising their education, as well as supporting the household during a period of extreme financial crunch and mental stress,” she posited. “Women also played an important role in ensuring their children remained safe from the pandemic by monitoring their health habits.”
Reiterating Samad’s statement, Dr. Tahir asserted that the minimum age for marriage should be raised as 16-year-old girls cannot take on the responsibility of raising a family.
“Marrying off someone at 16 is snatching away their childhood. Child marriages should be discouraged by encouraging a conversation, building awareness among the public, and educating their children,” she told Voicepk.net. “By educating their girls first, people will automatically learn to marry them off at an appropriate age.”
Addressing the seminar, former Governor of Punjab, Lt. Gen. (R) Khalid Maqbool said that sustainable development will remain a dream without provision of better health facilities and education opportunities to girls.
“Until and unless the Government assures quality education to boys and girls, and guarantee quality health provisions, we cannot progress as a society.”
Recalling the deteriorating state of women’s rights and health during the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers stressed that women should be given priority during any national or global health emergency as they are highly vulnerable.