CHILD, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY POLICY
Pakistan Council on Family Relations is planning to formulate a national policy on child, marriage and the family. Under the provision of The Constitution of Pakistan (1973) Article 35: Protection of Family etc.-“The State shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child”, the State has not formulated any policy as yet for the protection of the marriage, the family, the mother and the child while it is widely perceived that Pakistan needs such a social policy in the prevailing turbulent environment.
It is evident that Pakistani society is being highly influenced by the processes of globalization, Western cultural invasion, and changing technologies along with new legal, social and cultural values. Men, women and children roles within and outside the families are rapidly changing. In the present day turbulent environment, new generations are deficient of suitable role models before them. Further, they are not being properly educated and guided for their appropriate marital, familial and social roles. Additionally, the society is severely deficient of psychological counselling, guidance and educational facilities to cope with their marital and familial problems and difficulties.
Most of the marital and familial problems and difficulties are due to lack of knowledge and understanding on the subject, coping skills, unhealthy traditions and patterns of life. Some unhealthy marriage and family traditions are still being observed with rising trends while some new traditions and values are being adopted with some confusions of old and new assortment. Some prevailing traditions, such as, exchange marriages, child marriages, forced marriages, selling of female spouses, females’ marriage with Quran, karo-kari, honor killings etc. are violations of fundamental human rights. Dowery, in many cases, displays various hazards. Islamic and/or legal rights of inheritance in many families are being flouted, and mostly, the females are deprived of such rights. Spouse abuse and violence are still prevailing in many families. Child abuse including bonded labor, child kidnap, child begging, corporal punishment in schools and homes, and various other forms of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse are prevailing in society. Attention, care and respect for the elderly that was commonly observed in the past seems diminishing at homes and society. This sounds that our familial and social moral values are on declining trends.
While the moral values are on declining trends, the economic and market forces are on rising trends. While modesty and simplicity in families are not appreciated, the vanity and extravagance are commonly appreciated. It is estimated that about 112 billion US$ (Pak Rupees 11816 billion) are spent on marriage ceremonies during a year in Pakistan. In spite of such huge financial expenditure, intra-and-inter familial relations are short of healthy and happy communications. Comfort, peace and happiness in families are on declining trends while disputes and tensions are rising. Further, the issues, needs and problems of children, unmarried girls and boys, divorced and widows/widowers and elderly surviving sufferers are being neglected. Physically, mentally, intellectually and emotionally challenged children and adults are not being properly attended. Additionally, the problems and difficulties of our men, women and children in families are not being addressed by stakeholders including the government bodies. Perhaps, that is why, our marriage and family system is in disarray.
Stresses, conflicts, tensions and violence in our families and society are on the rise. Couple marital separation and divorce rate are projecting higher and higher. Aggression, violence, killings and suicides in families are commonly observed stories in the media. It is estimated that almost 90% of all crimes including theft, robbery, violence, killings and suicides in our society have their direct and/or indirect roots in the family. It seems that Pakistani society is fast heading towards chaos, dilemma and turmoil. Many men, women and children are subjected to various illegal, unethical, unhealthy and catastrophic patterns of life and their sufferings in families are multiplying day by day. Such unhealthy patterns and sufferings in families are also disturbing our all other institutions including law and order, political, economic, religious, and social, cultural and recreational fabrics of our society.
The Al-Mighty Allah warned in Quran, “O you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire …” (66:6). To help save our men, women and children, and to protect them from unhealthy and catastrophic patterns of life, and to save them from the dire consequences in this life and the hereafter, we need to educate and guide them on the right path. Psychologists and sociologists have indicated that healthy child, marriage and family relations are great sources of resilience against all adversities of life. We need to educate and inculcate healthy family ties and values of mutual respect, trust, loyalty, understanding, love, better communications etc. For this purpose, we should devise a suitable goal directed policy on Child, Marriage and the Family in our modern social and cultural perspectives. For devising such a policy, all stakeholders including psychologists, sociologists, social workers and social scientists, media, family representatives, lawyers, and policy makers should join their hands together so as to alleviate human sufferings, and prevail wellbeing and happiness in our families and society.