Child marriage around the world:

Child marriage around the world:


It is estimated that 21% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18.

Child marriage in Pakistan is connected with tradition, culture, and customary practices. It sometimes involves the transfer of money, settlement of debts or exchange of daughters (Vani / Swara or Watta Satta) sanctioned by a Jirga or Panchayat (council of elders from the community).

Pakistan is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage. The regional action plan is to be implemented in 2015 – 2018. Find out more.


Social and gender inequality, a desire to control women’s sexuality and protect family honour, economic hardship and lack of awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage are common driving factors.

Legal age of marriage

Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) 1929 sets the legal age for marriage to 16 for women and 18 for men.

Legal and policy context

In April 2014, the Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, increasing the minimum age of marriage to 18 and making marriage below 18 a punishable offence.

In Punjab, a Bill introducing harsher penalties for marriage under the age of 16 was also adopted. However, it does not increase the age of marriage to 18.

In a recent series of rulings, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body which gives Islamic legal advice to the Pakistani Government, declared that Pakistani laws prohibiting child marriage are un-Islamic. The rulings were widely criticised.

Regional and global advocacy

Pakistan is a member of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), an inter-governmental body which has adopted a regional action plan to target child marriage.

Pakistan was among the first States to propose a target to end child marriage by 2030 in discussions of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, a major inter-governmental process that helped to shape the next set of international development goals.


  • UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2016
  • UNFPA, Study Report: Child Marriage in Pakistan, 2007
  • Khawar Mumtaz, Sohail Warraich, Shariq Imam et al. Committee for Standardisation of Female Age of Marriage, Age of Marriage, a Position Paper, page 20
  • UNICEF Discussion Paper, Early Marriage, 2009
  • DHS 2006-2007, as cited by UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2011

UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

Stories related to Pakistan

Photo credit: Save the Children

Ending child marriage in South Asia: a regional action plan

More from Pakistan

  • Second Pakistan province cracks down on child marriage (Reuters)
  • Pakistan child marriages: “I cried so much when I married at 13” (BBC News)
  • Teaching libertation to Pakistan’s girls (The New York Times)
  • Sindh Assembly passes bill declaring marriage below 18 punishable by law (The Express Tribune)

Reports relevant to Pakistan

Resources related to Pakistan

Members In Pakistan

Aahung, Action Aid, Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation, AWAZ Foundation Pakistan Centre for Development Studies, Bedari, Blue Veins, Children and Women Trust, Civil Society Support Program (CSSP), Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), Development & Economic Empowerment of People (DEEP) Foundation, DIN – Development Institutions’ Network, FACES Pakistan, Fast Rural Development Program (FRDP), Gender and Empowerment Organization (GEO), Girls Assembly, Hamdam Development Organization (HDO), Hari Welfare Association, Hwa Foundation, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, Jaag Welfare Movement, Kafka Welfare Organization, Kehkashan Development Organization, Literate Masses, Nari Foundation, National Integrated Development Association (NIDA-Pakistan), Organisation for Public Interest (OPI), Organization for Community Development (OCD), Organization for Development and Peace, Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organisation (PRWSWO), Parveen Nadeem Welfare Organization (PNWO), Peace Foundation, Psycho-Social Research Advocacy and Rule of Law (PAROL), Reformists’ Social Welfare and Development Organisation (RSWDO), Roshni Welfare Organization (RWO), Rural Development Foundation, Saher Arts for Peace & Sustainable Development, Sangtani Women Rural Development Organization (SWRDO), Save the Children, Sindh Community Foundation (SCF), Sindh Development Society (SDS), Sister’s Council (khwendo jirga ), Society for Rights and Development, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), Sujag Sansar Organization, Sustainable Transformation for Rural Initiatives and Voluntary Efforts (STRIVE), The Awakening, Unique Development Organization, VSO International, Youth Association for Development (YAD),