May 18, 2013 | 06:42 PM (BD Time)
18 May, 2013 Saturday
Stopping child marriage
Safiul Azam :
Child marriage is common in Bangladesh especially for the girl children. Mostly poor people would get their daughters married at a very early age because they are not able to provide enough support and education to them. Usually it is easier to get them married when they are young. Also, sometimes parents get their daughters married to protect them from odd situation like stalking. As a result many young girls are getting married and becoming mothers at a very early age. However, child marriage is difficult for them as they are physically and mentally not mature to have babies, cope with married life and living with in-laws they suffer a lot mentally and physically. The right to free and full consent to a marriage is recognised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is Muslim Law of 1961 in which age of marriage for girls and boys are clearly given. As per marriage law in vogue in the country minimum age for a girl is 18 and that of boy is 21.
When developed countries are marching ahead applying empirical knowledge and technology, Bangladesh continues to see girl children are getting married before 18 years despite various laws prohibiting such practices in existence in the country. Most of the time, these marriages are not registered and not reported to the law enforcing agencies because of the mutual agreement between the two parties. The two major factors for child or early marriage are extreme poverty of the parents and social insecurity. It is in the rural areas that poor parents are giving their small daughters to marriage before 16 years and many studies show that these minor girls are immediately engaged in menial work in the houses of their grooms. In the cities and outskirts girls belonging to lower income groups are married off mainly for security reason. With the deteriorating law and order situation in the urban slums and low income areas parents do not feel safe to keep their growing girls at home and give them away in marriage before they attain the age of 16.
According to the survey of Bangladesh Demographic and Health- 2007, findings show that 66 percent of the under 18 girls in Bangladesh are already mothers and 22 percent get pregnant before 19 years. But It is difficult to estimate accuracy of these figures as women are likely not to give the accurate age of both puberty and marriage because of ignorance.
With early marriage comes the inevitable-early pregnancy. This further compounds the misery of the child bride as she is still growing up physically and mentally, she is not ready to take a child and she is suffering from malnutrition. As a result, when an unhealthy teenage mother gives birth to a child the newborn baby usually turns out to be a low weight baby, which again puts at risk the lives of both mother and child. They continue to suffer from various complications and ultimately become a burden on the husband's family. If their health conditions do not improve within a short time, the sick mother and her baby will be eventually dumped in her parent's house by the husband. In the community level the effects of child marriage are, the mothers are always ill health and also feel sick all the time. So, their family life is always engaged in quarrelling, and they are malnourished and anaemic. As a result their children become malnourished and a burden of our society, eventually becoming unsuccessful in education and engaged in labor. The girls look attractive before marriage but afterwards become haggard and lose their attractiveness which results their husband involved in polygamy.
Many research findings indicate that no girl wants a marriage that is forced on her. I talked one of them Aklima Begum who protested her marriage. She lives in Hatibandha Upazila under Lalmonirhat. "In 2008, I was in class Eight; my father was arranging marriage for me at that time. I informed it to the members of the children organization, School friends and Union Parishad chairman. The children organization member went to my house and tried to discourage my guardian. But they were not convinced at all rather they called Kazi (marriage register) to register my marriage. Before registering my marriage, The UP chairman came to house and my father at last was convinced and the marriage was stopped. Now I am continuing my education and studying in class XI" she said. I also talked with another woman who gets married. I have written her speech facsimile "when I was 16 years old and passed the Secondary School Certificate examination, I got married under pressure of my family. I had no chance to express my feelings and opinion. Now I am an adult. I am also working with community people and always trying to aware community people for reducing child marriage". I have talked with different child rights activist on the process of reducing child marriage. Mahfuzar Rahman who is working with the international humanitarian organization Plan International Bangladesh as Program Unit Manager, Lalmonirhat Program Unit has informed that they have taken various initiatives to combat child marriages like rally, discussion, dramas and folk songs on the negative effects of child marriage. He added that, they are receiving a lot of support from community people to raise awareness on the problems of child marriage along with the importance of education.
There are laws against the custom of child marriage but these laws are not proving to be effective among the poor and illiterate. The law enforcers themselves are not sufficiently aware of the various ills of early marriage. The social awareness campaigns will be very helpful to reduce child marriage. The mass media can play the vital role to create an enabling environment to protect children from this occurrence. The Government should be taken initiative to stimulate the Women and children related standing of
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