Child Brides- The Cost We Bear

Published - Feb 1, 2021

Costing Study on Child Marriage: A Country Level Report 2020-21

The eradication of child marriage is an important and acknowledged challenge for global policy. A child marriage is defined as a marriage or union of a girl or boy under the age of 18 (UNICEF, 2017). Whereas child marriage is a human rights violation and affects both genders, it affects girls disproportionately (UNICEF 2014). It is quite often the consequence of an entrenched gender inequality especially in South Asian countries. The disproportionate impact of child marriage on girls against the backdrop of the global incidence of child marriage raises specific concerns regarding the implications of child marriage on girls. The impact of child marriage is usually associated with education attainment, participation in the labour force, health and nutrition, fertility and population growth, child mortality, women’s agency, and gender-based violence. Given the high rate of child marriage in Pakistan, it is important to study the economic impact of child marriage in these dimensions.

The aim of this study is three-fold: firstly, to address the existing gap in the evidence on incidence, socioeconomic impact, and associated costs of child marriage in Pakistan; secondly, to inform policy debate and legal reform at the governmental level for eradication of child marriage through evidence-based research; and thirdly, to generate a wider socio-political and normative discourse around the issue of child marriage. This study contributes to the gaps in the existing literature on cost of child marriage in Pakistan using a sample that is representative of the national population. This study enables to better assess the costs of child marriage in the Pakistani context, by gathering new information on the direct and indirect cost of child marriage from 26 randomly selected districts in Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan to give a national picture on the issue.

The overarching evaluation question is the following: “What are the socio-economic costs of child marriage and what interventions can be designed to help protect girls from its adverse effects?” The study derives its methodology from UN Women’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Costing Guidelines. It employs UN Women’s “Impact Costing methodology” to calculate the full socio-economic impact of child marriage around each outcome separately, and estimate aggregate cost incurred to provincial governments in terms of percentage loss in GDP and in monetary terms. The conceptual framework identifies several socio-economic outcomes that are affected by child marriage. These outcomes include: (i) Education, (ii) Health, (iii) Labour Force Productivity, (iv) Fertility and population growth; (v) Child mortality; (vi) Women’s Agency including decision-making; and (vii) Incidence of domestic violence.
These outcomes are affected through multiple pathways, each generates a separate type of cost. The costs can be divided into two categories: private and public. The private costs can be identified as: (i) direct tangible costs;
(ii) indirect tangible costs; (iii) direct intangible costs; (iv) indirect intangible costs. Together these multi-layered costs have a multiplier effect on GDP, human development and economic development leading to perpetuation
of extreme poverty and inequality across generations at the provincial level.