As Pakistan grapples with its worst floods in living memory, in many affected areas such as Dadu District many are asking why anyone should have a problem with them getting money for their daughter’s marriage, in times of utter depravation.
‘Why, can’t a girl get married in a flood? If we are getting 50,000 rupees for our daughter’s marriage in this flood disaster, what is the problem with you media people?’ questions Qadir Bakhsh (pseudonym) as he talks with BBC Urdu about the matter. As he speaks the anger is evident in his voice, because according to him the media is interfering in his personal affairs by talking about this.
He had already been very resistant to discussing the subject of his daughter’s marriage with the BBC team. ‘Our house, belongings have all been washed away. No one is helping us, not even the government, not even a kilo of flour has been found. The water will recede and we will go back to the village, so what will we do there with empty hands? This money will be used to build our house’, he added in the same angry tone.
50-year-old Kadir Bakhsh has two sons and two daughters. The age of his elder daughter is around twelve years while the younger one is around ten years.
He has settled the relationship of his 12-year-old daughter with his relatives after being displaced in the floods. Qadir Bakhsh has arranged this relationship for 50 thousand of which, according to him, he has already received 25 thousand before departure while the remaining amount has been promised on the day of marriage. His daughter’s marriage is now scheduled to take place after a month.
When Qadir Bakhsh was told that marrying a 12-year-old girl is a legal crime, he got angry and said, ‘First ask the government to help us, then explain to us what is wrong and what is right.’ He further said ‘where will we six people eat food, who will arrange medicine for my wife who is sick. We don’t know when the water will recede and when we will go back, how will we survive until then? Who will solve our problems?’ Nobody has the answer to these questions of Qadir Bakhsh.
In wake of the recent floods which have left millions at the mercy of waterborne diseases and extremities of weather, hunger and poverty- there seems to be an increase in problem of underage marriages in flood-struck areas with suffering families turning to marrying their underage daughters off to men in return for money. Many of the men are often much older than their young brides.