Issues of child marriage in Bangladesh
"Every child has the right to: be safe, grow, learn and play" - UNICEF.
Regrettably, in Bangladesh children (expressly girls)are deprived of these rights, when it is the crucial time for their learning and development. Burdens of matrimonial responsibilities are forcibly placed over their little shoulders whereas they should have been given proper education and learning facilities. Among the South Asian countries, Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage with a proportion of 52 per cent. Though child marriage has been considered as an illegal act since 1929, we have failed to prevent this with strong hands due to many social problems.
In this country, the legal age for marriage is 21 for boys and 18 for girls. This law had been made in the Child Marriage Restrain Act in 1929. And shockingly, there was a time when the government tried to make alterations by lowering the legal age of girls from 18 to 16 for marriage.
Yet, the motive became futile due to remarkable national and international protest. However,in February 2017, the Child Marriage Restrain Act passed a new law which favours child marriage under "special circumstances". Yet, no clear explanation has been given to define in what special circumstances the marriage will be considered as legal. Certainly, many people will misuse this ambiguous law and will utilize it as a shield of committing this loathing act.
Several reasons drive people to carry out early marriage. In our country, due to poverty, most of the parents consider their daughters as burdens. As a solution to this burden, they marry them off at a very young age. Second most crucial factor is the lack of education which blinds people with irrational thoughts.
In the rural areas of the country, most of the people are illiterate and live below the poverty line. Their superstitious minds do not allow their daughters to get minimum education. Instead they advocate child marriage, so that the daughters will do household works and will give birth, as they believe that these are the activities that girls are supposed to do.
Besides, dowry also plays a catalyst role in these circumstances. In the countryside, there is a common delusory custom that, the amount of dowry gets bigger corresponding to the age of the bride. Thus, the fathers of the brides have to count more money as a payment of dowry, if the age of the girl crosses over 20.
Sexual harassment is another cause which invoke early marriages. Even the parents who do not support child marriage are driven to marry off their daughters early, as a consequence of this harassment. Eve teasing, sexual assaults are not a current issue. This is a grave social problem which affects a girl's life badly and in extreme cases many of the victims commit suicide. Therefore, to prevent the situation, parents choose not to send their daughters at school and as the harassment arises they decide to marry them off without considering their age.
Consequences of child marriage are dreadful. Firstly, the potential asset of the country loses their possibility as they drop out of education and miss the chance of having a good employment. As a matter of fact, the newly young brides are expected to do all the household works in the in-laws house which ultimately falls under the crime of child labor.
Moreover, they get the social pressure at the early age to become pregnant.For this pressure they experience several pregnancies as well as miscarriages, risking their health to an extreme poor condition. Eventually, they undergo serious birth complications and tragically many of them demise while giving birth.
Early marriage doesn't only put their health condition in danger; it also put their psychological development at stake. The young brides become the helpless victims of domestic violence which affects critically in their mental growth resulting them to be anxious and troubled all the time. As a result, they become less confident and suffer from inferiority complex.
Government and non-government agencies can obstruct early marriage if they work hand in hand. First of all, the newly added law of considering early marriage in "special circumstances" should be explained evidently, leaving no loopholes.Government should enforce the laws and enact those laws in strong hand with settings some exemplary punishments.
Punishment laws should also be enforced against dowry and sexual harassments. Besides, the agencies which give assistance in the poverty stricken areas can raise awareness and should encourage the families to send their girls to schools by giving extra facilities.
Moreover, people should be inspired to stand against this illegal act and they should be motivated by giving recognition if theydo so. If we all raise our voices to this illicit act and if we take legal stand wherever we detect early marriage in our surroundings, then the number of these marriages will tend to fall with the possibility of saving some innocent lives.
The writer is a freelance contributor