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Govt needs to be more stringent in preventing child marriage

Editorial  Desk

Editorial Desk

Mon, 10 Jun 24

If the rate of child marriage remains at 50 percent in a country even after two decades of the twenty-first century, it is undoubtedly a matter of great shame for that nation. Child marriage clearly highlights numerous negative aspects such as education, health, poverty, dowry, social customs, and religious and social pressures within a country. If child marriage in a country decreases by only 2 percent each year, it is even more alarming. This is the case in Bangladesh. At this rate, it could take Bangladesh 215 years to eliminate child marriage. The question is, will Bangladesh wait 215 years, or will it take stricter measures to prevent child marriage?

On June 5th, at an event organized by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, UNFPA, and UNICEF, a grim picture of child marriage in Bangladesh was presented. The report stated that the rate of child marriage for girls under 18 was 64 percent in 2006, 52 percent in 2012, and 51 percent in 2019. According to the report, there are currently 41.5 million married girls and women in the country who are also mothers. Child marriage not only destroys the life of the girl but also has repercussions for future generations.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2017 of Bangladesh clearly states in Article 6: "Any male who has not completed twenty-one (21) years of age and any female who has not completed eighteen (18) years of age" will be considered to have entered into a child marriage, and violating this law is a punishable offense. The law includes provisions for both fines and imprisonment as penalties.

Despite the enactment of this law, Bangladesh holds the highest rate of child marriage among South Asian countries. The rates are 35 percent in Afghanistan, 27 percent in India, 21 percent in Pakistan, 10 percent in Nepal, and 4 percent in Sri Lanka. According to the "Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics 2023" report by BBS, the rate of child marriage among girls under 18 in Bangladesh is approximately 42 percent, and for girls under 15, the rate is 8 percent.

The causes of child marriage include lack of education, poverty, social customs, and religious pressure. Additionally, a significant factor is the inadequate enforcement of the law. In many areas, birth certificates are still not used mandatorily for marriage registration. With the cooperation of families, marriage registrars or religious leaders (Kazi) often marry off underage boys and girls. Sometimes, false information is provided to show the girl as older than she is. This puts the married women in life-threatening situations.

Child marriage is not possible without the cooperation of families and society. Everyone takes advantage of the lack of proper enforcement of the law to commit this crime. Therefore, the government must be more stringent in preventing child marriage. This requires not only the enforcement of laws but also increased awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and madrasas, as well as across the media and all levels of society.

If child marriage is not prevented, it will be extremely detrimental to the socio-economic and cultural development of the country. It will inevitably hinder the achievement of sustainable development goals. The government has committed to building a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, and we hope that the government will completely eradicate child marriage well before achieving this goal.

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