A losing battle?
- Failure to cut child marriage unacceptable
Mar 12, 2018-
The news of Bangladesh’s failure to reduce its child marriage rate is deeply disturbing. According to Unicef, the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is now 59 percent, the fourth highest in the world. Far from improving on our 2011 figure which was 52 percent, the quality of our performance has declined steadily. On the contrary, the South Asian region, on the strength of performances by countries such as India, registered an impressive performance bringing the rate from 50 percent ten years ago to 30 percent. The global figure is also quite inspiring. So, what went wrong in Bangladesh’s case? This should be a subject of deliberation at the highest level of policymaking. One cannot help but notice that there is an abject lack of action on the pledges made by the government to end marriage of girls under the age 15 by 2021 and under 18 by 2041. One particular reason behind this failure is the existence of loopholes and exceptions in our legal system, including the special provision of the Child Marriage Restraint Policy, 2017 which allow marriages of underage children under special circumstances. There is also a lack of implementation of the existing rules and regulations as well as a lack of awareness in the rural areas, where the majority of child marriage cases take place. Also, the rise in such cases can be associated with a lack of security—both financial and physical—for girls, which often forces even unwilling parents to marry them off earlier than the permitted age. Bangladesh cannot forge ahead in this fight without removing all these barriers. The legal and institutional barriers that are there need to go first, but more importantly, we need strong political commitment without which steady progress in any social indicator would be impossible.
Published: 12-03-2018 07:57