Child marriage is still prevalent in Bangladesh. How to stop this unhealthy practice?

— mhkawsar.wordpress.com

— mhkawsar.wordpress.com

The prevalence of child marriage is an unfortunate matter for today’s world. We must be able to identify that it is most common in rural areas. The practice of child marriage is very damaging, especially for girls. It seems girls are treated as a burden to society, once again, mostly in rural areas. In rural areas, people still believe that girls are not good for anything except for cooking and for doing household work. But if we look at today’s world, we can clearly see that girls are doing an outstanding job in all fields of work, sometimes even better than men.
The discussion of child marriage is not only constrained to the problem of early marriage, it is important in saving our children and their future. That is why it is essential to stop this unhealthy practice. And in order to stop this practice, we must change our views about ourselves and our society. If we cannot change our own perspectives, then the problem of child marriage cannot be addressed properly.
In order to stop the problem of child marriage, we can set up volunteer organisations that can actively work to address issues related to this problem. The media can play a huge role in solving this issue. Not only the media, but their sponsors can also play a vital role, through join-initiatives with their media partners.
The government can and must play their part to address this issue as well. The government can also help indirectly as well, by providing assistance to other organisations which work towards solving this problem. Education and awareness must be increased. Once again both the media and the government can play a vital role in increasing both. Without proper organisation, the efforts of other organisations will be in vain. All these can be achieved only if we strictly believe in our minds that we must address this issue in order to save the future leaders of Bangladesh, thus, the future of Bangladesh itself.
Sabbir Mahmood Arman
1st year student           
Daffodil Institute OF IT
***
Child marriage is a major social problem in Bangladesh. While the median age for girls to marry is 15, it is often lower in poor rural areas. As well as culture and tradition, factors influencing child marriage includes the perceived need to protect girls’ sexual purity and economic considerations. While dowry is very new in Bangladesh it is almost double for girls married at 17-19 versus those married under 15, which is an incentive to marry off girls at a younger age.
Early marriage is a major issue in Bangladesh. We cannot reduce the mortality rates without reducing child marriage. According to UNICEF’s 2011 State of the World’s Children report, about a third of the women in Bangladesh aged 20-24 were married by the age of 15, and 66 per cent of girls were wedded before their 18th birthday up by 2 per cent from 2009. The root causes of child marriage are the prospect of reduced dowry payments and fears of sexual harassment, which continues to prompt parents to marry off their daughters before they reach adulthood.
According to the 1929 national Child Marriage Restraint Act, it is illegal for parents to marry off their children under the age of 18. Occasionally the authorities have intervened to stop child marriages. In March 2014, police halted the wedding of 10 year old Sathi Akter, daughter of an agricultural worker in Saturia village in Manikganj District. But more often than not, such laws are not enforced and parents marry of their daughters in secret, with devastating consequence for their health and well being. Early marriage means early pregnancy and there are serious health consequences of early pregnancy. The maternal mortality rate is high among girls who are married off at an early age.
However, there are many solutions available in order to eradicate the problem of child marriage. Advocating the harmful effects and consequences of child marriage is necessary in order to eradicate this practice.There should be massive awareness programmes by the government, NGOs, civil society and everyone else in our nation to make people aware of the negative effects of child marriage. Only then can we stop it from occurring frequently. Increasing educational enrolment and increasing parental awareness to keep their daughters in schools is essential. Young women must be provided support in changing their economic status. They must be given the opportunity to earn their own livelihood. This can be done through skills training programmes and various other means.
It is also vital to increase awareness regarding the negative impacts of early marriage through the use of the mass media. Without building up awareness, it is not possible to address this issue properly. Strong application of laws prohibiting child marriage is necessary, especially in the rural areas. Work with communities, women’s groups and local political and religious leaders should be undertaken in order to increase awareness and address misconceptions and myths regarding women’s rights. There is a need to identify where child marriage occurs more frequently in order to create special programmes at those locations. Committees should be set up at every village by applying necessary conditions. These committees can then be held responsible if child marriages occur under their supervision. These steps can help prevent child marriage and help young girls develop their life properly and shape a better Bangladesh.
Shabnam Talukder Barsha
School of Law
BRAC University
***
The latest research report of UNICEF, titled ‘Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects’ (2014), displays that the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is alarmingly high. The report contends that 74 per cent of women aged between 20 and 49 in Bangladesh, were married before their 18th birthday. Of these 74 per cent women, around 39 per cent of them were wedded before the age of 15. Child marriage rate in Bangladesh is higher than average, compared with other South Asian countries, which is 56 per cent.
Though the world’s highest number of child marriages occurs in neighbouring India, in terms of percentage, India’s child marriage rate is 33 per cent, far less than Bangladesh with 58 per cent. What is even more concerning is that, 3 out of 4 marriages in Bangladesh involve child marriage. These statistics in on itself is distressing enough to draw our attention to this serious matter, and indicates to the need of greater public awareness.
Before we can come up with the right solutions, first, we must clearly identify the underlying reasons behind this problem. There are many reasons behind this problem in Bangladesh, however, let us concentrate on three major ones –– social values, poverty and dowry.
It is a fact that unmarried men do not face many questions and comments unmarried women face. Many of our social values regarding women originate from local customs and beliefs. Parents of unmarried women, especially in rural areas, are pressurised by their neighbours and relatives to have their daughters married early. Conversely, the same does not apply for parents of unmarried men, as it is believed that women’s’ chastity is more important than men’s, therefore, women needs to get married as soon as possible to guard their chastity. This double standard is often perpetrated through the use of religion, mainly Islam, which is incorrect. Islam does not endorse such cultural practices. It endorses chastity equally important for both male and female. Thus, it can be concluded that these social practices are not based on religion. Instead, they are based on our culture.
Although, poverty has decreased in Bangladesh in recent years, poverty is still one of the main reasons driving child marriages. Most families living in poverty are worried about their daughters as they consider them to be a burden, while boys are considered an asset. This is based on the fact, that in Bangladesh, girls normally do not earn their own living, while boys have to earn and look after their parents. This is why they marry off their daughters early, thinking they cannot provide any financial support to the family.
Lastly, the most vile reason behind child marriage is dowry –– which is the forced payment made by the side of the bride, to that of the husband. Some males get married just to receive dowry without taking into consideration the age of the bride. Well-off families are usually targeted with marriage proposals for this vile purpose. In such cases, the girl’s age does not matter. The only thing that matters is the dowry. Therefore, this awful practice of dowry is also responsible for countless child marriages in Bangladesh.
Despite the fact that child marriage is a difficult problem to tackle, we can still hope that the rate of this societal disease will decrease over time. And to achieve this objective, the government and the private organisations must step forward, with seriousness and professionalism. They must be active in their efforts to reduce the rate of child marriage. The aforementioned reasons that fuel child marriage must be addressed. Public awareness must be raised, to stop this societal malpractice in order to have a child marriage free Bangladesh for decades to come.
Abu Sufian
Master in English Literary Studies
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
Kuala Lumpur
***
Early forced marriage is a violation of human rights that destroy the childhood of girls and ruin their lives. It has now become an international issue that has been widely talked about, since it claims many victims annually. There are thousands of cases of injuries or deaths, resulting from abuse or complications from pregnancy and child birth, related to early marriage. It is a serious problem for developing countries such as Bangladesh. Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. In Bangladesh, 64 per cent of women currently 20-24 were married before the age of 18. The minimum legal age of marriage for females in Bangladesh is 18 years and 21 for males. The practice of arranged child marriage remains common, especially among the poor in rural areas and urban slums, where most families regard the age of puberty as the point at which a girl is ready for marriage. Among the many reasons for early marriage in Bangladesh, some of the most prominent are poverty, superstition, lack of education and lack of awareness of the law.
Poverty is one of the most influential reasons for the extremely high occurrence of child marriage in Bangladesh. Poorer families may see early marriage as financially beneficial because of increased dowry cost as the girl ages and because the family is no longer burdened with supporting their daughter. Additionally, parents are attracted to the prospect of lower dowry payments it they marry their daughters off at an early age. Lack of education and illiteracy is also responsible for child marriage, as people are not aware of the problems associated with it. Another root cause of early marriage is the fear of sexual harassment of young girls. Early marriage is seen as a way of protecting a girl from such harassments in an unsafe environment. Thus, a sense of social insecurity also contributes to the problem of child marriage in Bangladesh. Besides these reasons, lack of knowledge and understanding of laws that prohibit child marriage is also a major factor.
Bangladesh has enacted different laws and regulations to prevent child marriage. However, they have hardly helped to prevent this problem. Measures of formal and non-formal education regarding this matter should be taken. Government, NGOs and other organisations should come together to promote such education. Laws should be enforced more strictly to stop child marriage. Those who violate these laws should be penalised. At present, poverty and a lack of education are the main factors behind child marriage. Therefore, in order to stop child marriages, the government and our society needs to work together to eradicate poverty and reduce illiteracy.
Electronic and other forms of media can also play a vital role in eradicating child marriage through educational films and other publications, showing the harmful effects associated with it. There is a need for comprehensive age appropriate, culturally relevant education programmes for everyone, especially young girls and women regarding sexuality and health related issues. The more wealthy sections of society should also come forward and lend a hand to the poor children so that they may continue their studies. Eradication of child marriage remains a vital issue and a challenge for our country in the 21st century. Child marriage is not only harmful for young women, but also for their families, communities and the entire nation.
Sohag Khandoker
Dolphin School
***
Child marriage can be defined as ‘any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, before an individual is physically, physiologically and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage’. In many cases, only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, though the overwhelming majority of those affected are girls most of whom are in poor socioeconomic positions. Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest rates of early marriage. According to one survey, 66 per cent of Bangladeshi girls are married before the age of 18 and approximately a third of women aged 20 to 24 are married by the age of 15.
The drives behind the elevated rate of child marriage stem from traditional Bangladeshi customs and moral codes. In Bangladesh, a patriarchal, asymmetrical society prevails. On top of this, poverty is a major underpinning factor encouraging early marriage. Young girls are often considered as an economic burden by their families and their marriage to an older man and into another family is often a family survival strategy in order to obtain financial security. Additionally, parents are attracted by the prospect of lower dowry payments if they marry their daughters off at an early age. Another root cause of child marriage in Bangladesh is the fear of sexual harassment of young daughters. Child marriage is seen as a way to protect a girl’s sexuality in an unsafe environment.
There is limited enforcement of law relating to early marriage in Bangladesh. This is a principal area in which implementation and practice should be adjusted in order to limit forced child marriage and its negative effects. On top of this, advocacy is fundamental. Efforts must be improved to raise awareness and educate people at all levels of society, starting from grassroots initiatives to governmental policies.
Significant schemes have been set up in recent years in Bangladesh in order to limit the harmful practice of child marriage.
However, despite these initiatives, parents continue to marry off their underage daughters and survey suggests that there has been no significant change in the percentage of women married before the age of 18 in recent years. Measures to be taken from the end of the government to eliminate the practice of child marriage – which may be both preventive and protective in nature, namely, encourage private sector to work, partnerships between NGOs and government, highlight drawbacks of early marriage in textbooks, proper implementation of existing laws, compulsory marriage registration, social awareness, capacity building of government institutions, data management system on marriage related issues, training facilities for policy makers, campaign through medias and rescue operation of adolescent girls from early marriage. Governmental and non-governmental bodies need to come together in order to reach out to the poorest and most rural communities in Bangladesh, in order to advance national as well as wider, global, development.’ As eradicating child marriage is imperative in creating a glorious Bangladesh.

Md Aktar Hossain
Deputy Project Director
Skills & Training Enhancement Project (STEP)
Directorate of Technical Education

2 Comments

  1. very good articles.

  2. Very excellent piece of writings. Especially, the 3rd essay by Abu Sufian is more informative and practical.

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