Students, academics and civil society activists got together at a seminar on underage marriages at the University of Peshawar campus on Monday.The event was held at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication under the aegis of Center for Communication Programs Pakistan (CCPP), an advocacy and rights organisation. Tahir Abbas, the CCPP advocacy specialist, told the participants that the organisation works in the sphere of development communication to improve people’s life by working on health issues and campaign to discourage underage marriages. He said the CCPP works to raise awareness about the consequences of underage marriages and to push efforts for legislation from the country’s legislature. “We are working with different universities through seminars to raise awareness on the issue of child marriages,” he said.Speaking on the occasion, the event’s keynote speaker Shagufta Hameed said that as per the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey, one out of four girls is married under the age of 18 in the country. Speakers warned against the negative consequences of underage marriage and stressed for legislationShe added that rural areas have reported 14 percent of the underage marriages cases while the urban areas witnessed 12 percent cases. She added that the underage marriages often result in miscarriages, lack of mental health of the young parent, divorces, higher rates of infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition and other health issues. She mentioned that according to the PDHS, the maternal mortality rate in Pakistan is 276 per 100,000 births while the infant mortality rate is 74 per 1000 live births. She said that the major drivers and causes behind child marriages are poverty, crisis situation when families may want to marry off even young girls due to emergency situations, incorrect religious interpretations, gap between parents and their children, and the gender roles that have been assigned by society to men and women.A religious scholar, Muhammad Sharif Hazarvi, told the participants that child marriages are not encouraged in Islamic teachings. “The Quran says in a verse that besides attaining puberty, someone also needs to be mature enough to earn and sustain his family before getting married,” he added. He said that someone may achieve puberty at the age of 18 years, but he/she may still not be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of a family and marriage. The CCPP also announced a poster competition on underage marriages, for which the first three positions would be awarded Rs10,000 each and later the overall winner will be awarded Rs50,000.Published in Daily Times, March 19th 2019.