In our society violence is prevalent, it takes the form of child abuse, child marriages, domestic violence and honor killings. While the case of child abuse and child marriages are increasing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government has decided to close down the child protection unit which will create a huge gap in the system as currently, the government has no response mechanisms for violence against children and gender-based violence. Instead of strengthening systems and institutions, policymakers are reluctant to openly discuss the issue of early marriage, honor killing, and domestic violence.Deeply rooted in tradition, culture and customary practices, child marriage remains a widespread practice across Pakistan. Child marriage in itself is a form of violence, but it also leads to domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. 21 percent of the girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18, according to The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). In early marriages, both the boy and the girl lose the opportunity to get a better education, they also indulge in gender-based violence due to bad socio-economic status due to marrying in early ages. Instead of the government taking lead on the reforms, many civil society organizations and donor agencies have been pushing for reforms against gender-based violence which has made this a long run made this process complicated. The outcome of the reforms is limited to the consultation meetings and workshops while the governments has been reluctant in taking steps to strengthen the laws and policies. That’s the reason Pakistan has an outdated law like the Child Restraint act of 1929 in implementation. Last year when an amendment was presented in the Senate to increase the minimum marriageable age for girls from 16 to 18 years, the Senate standing committee rejected the federal Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2017, terming it ‘un-Islamic’.Last year when an amendment was presented in the Senate to increase the minimum marriageable age for girls from 16 to 18 years, the Senate standing committee rejected the federal Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2017, terming it ‘un-Islamic’Under the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, the minimum age for marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls. Now nearly even 90 years after the implementation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, punishments under this act remains same and are negligible to the extent that it never helped in curbing the issue of early marriages. These punishments, for instance, are simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine it may be extended to one thousand rupees, or both. Early marriages mostly result in family tensions which in turn lead to high risks for married girls such as complications during pregnancy and health risks for babies born to young mothers. According to various studies, girls pregnant under the age of 15 have a five times greater chance of dying compared to girls who get pregnant in their twenties. Early marriages can also thwart personal development and growth, as a child constantly undergoes physical, mental and emotional changes before reaching adulthood. Girls who marry in their early years are less likely to finish school and are at a higher risk of domestic violence, abuse, and health issues.In Pakistan, forced marriage is against the law and abetment is also an offense under the Pakistan Penal code, 1860. If the girl gets married without parental permission, she faces maltreatment and is also sometimes hunted down by her parents and is subjected to punishments in various forms including honor killing, burning and sudden ‘accidental’ death and disappearances. The response systems to control related to issues of violence are nearly non-existent at the institutional level. Actions are taken only when a case is reported in the media. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for instance, the response system is limited to a hotline number for the social welfare department. This hotline number is completely dysfunctional as the staff either don’t pick calls or don’t register complaints received through the hotline number. Instead of telephone calls, the staff responds to written complaints received through the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. In such a situation, people try to approach the media but the vast majority of the population are unaware of the government departments where they can approach. In most cases, if they approach the respective departments such as police or the district government, they refer these survivors to other departments and this way an unending process of referral system starts.Survivors and victims of violence need to know emergency numbers such as 15, 1122 and the helpline number of the Social Welfare and child protection Units. The government needs to strengthen these helplines first and then inform the general public regarding the utility of each department. A mass media campaign is the need of the hour to promote the available response systems in all four provinces and to ensure survivors can access these numbers.The government also needs to ensure free and compulsory education for every child. Early marriages have a link to illiteracy and lack of opportunities. For instance, there are 26 million children all over the country which do not go to schools. Nearly 70 percent of these out of school children are girls who on one hand lose out on the opportunities to get an education and on the other hand, are married early. While we speak of response systems, provision of compulsory education to children will help in reducing early marriages thereby reducing violence from our society.The writer is a public policy commentator and communications professional. He can be contacted at Twitter: zia051Published in Daily Times, December 22nd 2018.