Urging the Bangladesh government not to lower the age of girls for marriage, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recomended the country should set 18 as the minimum age for marriage to comply with international prohibitions against child marriage.
The New York based rights group, in a press release on Sunday, came up with the urge following recent media reports that indicate the prime minister’s cabinet is considering a revision to the law to make 16 the minimum age of marriage for girls. The minimum age for men would be 18.
The proposed revisions would reverse stated government aims to reduce child marriage among girls, HRW thinks.
At the July 2014 Girl Summit in London, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to take steps to reduce, and ultimately end, child marriage in Bangladesh. Bangladesh pledged to end all child marriage by 2041. The government also committed to develop a national plan of action on child marriage before 2015, and take other steps to change social norms and engage civil society in the fight against child marriage.
“Setting the age of marriage for girls in Bangladesh at 16 would be a terrible step in the wrong direction,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“The rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is already off the charts. The new law should set the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both women and men and put the best interests of children at the center of all of its provisions,” she added.
Bangladesh has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world, second only to Niger, according to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Bangladesh ratified in 1990, defines a child as anyone under age 18.
“The Bangladeshi government’s promised efforts to end child marriage are encouraging, but these steps need the participation of affected women and activist groups. The government should consult closely at every stage with the groups, who have a wealth of knowledge about protecting women and girls, to develop a new law and a national plan of action,”Liesl Gerntholtz said.
She went on :“Bangladesh should take the opportunity to learn from countries around the world that have successfully tackled child marriage."
"The Bangladeshi government should pass a new Child Marriage Restraint Act that empowers girls to delay marriage, resist unwanted marriage, and be recognized in society for their value as individuals, not just as brides,”Liesl Gerntholtz added.