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Girl, 5, Was Forced to Marry a 22-Year-Old Man in Pakistan

Mohammad Sajjad/AP

A 5-year-old girl is reported to have been forced into marrying a 22-year-old man in Pakistan.

Police were alerted to the ceremony, in the village of Raman Shar near Shikarpur city, but they weren’t able to stop the proceedings in time. 

The child has been taken into custody, but is reported to be facing prosecution under the Child Marriages Restraint Act.

READ MORE: Syrian Refugee Fights Child Marriage and Abuse of Young Divorcees

The groom, his father and the registrar have been arrested, and police are pursuing a criminal case against the groom, his parents and the child’s parents. 

According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, which published report of the marriage, those found guilty of “entering into, or facilitating, a child marriage can be sentenced to rigorous punishment for up to three years."

The minimum marriageable age for a female in Pakistan is 16. Meanwhile, the minimum age for males to get married is 18. 

Child marriage is widespread in the country, but there is a lack of reliable data. Some surveys claim that as many as 30% of marriages in the country’s Sindh province are forced child marriages, according to The Independent

According to figures released by UNICEF, 21% of Pakistani women are married by the age of 18. 

READ MORE: Meet Cassandra Levesque: A Girl Scout and Global Citizen of America Ending Child Marriage

The nonprofit organization, Girls Not Brides, says that children forced into marriages face huge challenges as a result. Isolated, often with limited freedom, they are disempowered and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. 

The charity’s website adds: “Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.”