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Wednesday, November 25, 2015, Agrahayan 11, 1422 BS, Safar 12, 1437 Hijri

Early marriage risks adolescent mother's life
Bannai Mallick
Published :Wednesday, 25 November, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 27
"I thought of committing suicide many a time, just to end my sufferings, insult, but I couldn't do it because of my Sonamoni (golden one)" said 22-year old Kabita Rani Mondal from Shailmari village under Khulna district in Batiaghata Thana while describing her ordeal of giving birth to her baby daughter Krishna.
Talking to the Daily Observer Kabita says she was thrown out of home by her husband and in-laws due to the fistula she developed due to teenage-pregnancy and subsequent delivery.
Kabita's parents gave her away in marriage without her consent when she was only 14-year old due to poverty.
Unfortunately, their poverty increased more as Kabita with her new-born daughter returned to her paternal home just after she was abandoned by her husband Jogodish, 38, blaming her for the disease.
A fistula is a kind of disease in which the women's vaginal passage gets connected to the urinary bladder. This causes leakage of urine from the vagina and results in frequent vaginal and bladder infections.
It is common among married women in poor developing countries and is the result of long, difficult labour during childbirth, especially with very young girls.
A woman with fistula is too often rejected by her husband and ostracised by the villagers due to stench that the disease emits.
Kabita is not a lone story, if research is done on the detrimental effects of child marriage thousands of shocking cases of the ill-fated girls will come to light.
About half of teenage girls in Bangladesh suffer from malnutrition and anaemia due to child marriage. Child marriage puts girls at risk of early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening consequences. Maternal death related to pregnancy and childbirth is an important component of mortality for girls aged between 15 and 19.
A study shows that the girls who marry before the age of 18 years are more likely to experience mental health problems. Marriage before the age of 18 years increases a girl's chance of developing a psychiatric condition in her lifetime. Some 53 per cent of girls who are married off before the age of 18 reported having had a mental disorder such as depression.
Dr Rezaul Karim Kazal, Associate Professor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a gynaecologist, said that all the reproductive organs of a woman do not mature before the age of 18 to 20.
"A girl less than 18 is also a child, so how can a child give birth to another child? But it is happening; so, lot of complications are arising such as serious obstetric complications, including fistula and morbidity," he said. He also noted that the risk of fistula is as high as 88 per cent for the teen -aged mothers. According to WHO (World Health Organization), young people aged 10 to 19 years are regarded as adolescents. One-third of the population of Bangladesh is aged 14 or younger while adolescent represent a quarter of the total population.
Adolescence generally is a developing period of life. Many of them are less educated, less experienced and less comfortable in accessing family planning and reproductive health services than adults.
Ayesha Khanam, President of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad said that early child marriage causes teen pregnancy, complicated diseases and maternal mortality.
When asked the reason for early marriage she said that in the perspective of our country, many factors are responsible for committing child marriage including poverty, lack of education and social security and so -called mindset.
Talking about bad impact of early marriage she said, "Child marriage endangers girls' lives and limits their potentials."
Article 16 of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) says that child marriages are illegal.
Since 1948, the United Nations and other international agencies have attempted to stop child marriage. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of United Nations states that persons must be of 'full age' when married and that marriage should be entered into 'freely' and with 'full consent.' Child marriage is a gross violation of human rights.
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world. According to UNICEF, two of every three girls will be married before they reach 18 years of age. This rate is higher than that of the South Asian region - 65 per cent for Bangladesh compared to 48 per cent for the whole region.
State Minister for Women and Children's Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki, said, "Although the government is working relentlessly towards preventing marriage before the girls come of age, this remains one of the weaknesses in Bangladesh, despite its impressive gains in health indicators."
The Minister said, "Initiatives are underway to ensure a complete stop to early marriage by 2041."
Bangladesh has drafted a law-Child Marriage Restraint Act 2014-but has failed to enact it. Although the draft law fixed marriage age for girls at 18, there are moves to lower it to 16 or to keep a waiver clause. This has evoked outcry from Rights activists who say the move even betrays the spirit of a law framed 76 years ago fixing the marriage age at 18 years. However, there are a number of initiatives to prevent child marriage across Bangladesh, but there is negligible initiative to provide for those children who have already been married.
Arnob Chakrabarty, Managing Director of Red Orange, which is also running a project "Initiative for Married Adolescents Girls Empowerment (IMAGE) has reached out to 4,500 early married adolescents and helped them understand, utilize and practice their sexual and reproductive campaigns.
"Government policies should be more adolescent-centric to build a healthy nation. Government should provide health service facilities not only to pregnant mothers but also newly married adolescent girls. And this facilities should not be limited to the upazila level rather it should be in the union level too," he said.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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