In recent times, many a question continue to be raised on the plight of child brides. How marrying children is gaining prevalence in Pakistan despite documented impacts on their lives is being echoed in all corners. In many regressive societies, the term “child bride” brings to mind the unsavoury practice of marrying a child, even a preteen, to someone much, much older. This is true for South Asian countries, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, which carry the highest burden of child marriage in the world. Recent Unicef estimates reveal a harrowing number of 290 million child brides in the region, which represents 45 per cent of all child marriages globally. Pakistan has a particularly shameful record. Other than Sindh, where the legal age for marriage has been set at 18 years, in the rest of the country, girls as young as 16 are officially allowed to marry. In fact, in Pakistan, one in three girls is married before reaching the age of 18, as per the data released by the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey. Early-age marriages, undoubtedly, hinder the prospects of girls, making them susceptible to domestic violence, family abuse and health issues. In Pakistan, one in three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. Certainly, it was shocking to see a neighbour of mine married under the age of 15 by the force of her parents. She is not the only one forced to go through this. Countless minor females are married by their parents despite not even being close to the marriage age. Child marriage is a form of sexual abuse in which the child is subjected to assault and deprived of their childhood. It also affects the psychological and social growth of the child. Certainly, girls who are married at an early age tend to bear more children, and in turn, contribute to the menace of overpopulation. Child brides have several pregnancy-related health problems and have more chances of infant mortality than babies born to older, healthier mothers. High rates of maternal and infant mortality in Pakistan are closely linked to early marriage. These problems must be discussed with every parent who wishes to force marriage upon their minor children. If a child can’t take care of herself, how can she take responsibility for an entire home? Sadly, that girl doesn’t enjoy her childhood and is forced to be and act like a mother despite being a child herself. It should be noted how should would be able to bear the burden of an entire family after marriage and the toll these responsibilities would take on her fragile being. Many parents force their children into marriage to mitigate their financial burden but they don’t think about early marriage and its effects. There is no shortage of those who only think of their children, especially girls, as a financial burden. It is extraordinary that there remains a widespread lack of awareness among parents about early marriage and its dangerous effects. The rampant presence of early marriages needs urgent attention. Thus, child marriage is a serious human rights violation. Apart from parents, South Asia’s policymakers must also realise how prevalent the practice is and act fast before the future of millions more girls is destroyed. The writer is a freelance columnist.