Bangladesh to Allow ‘Special Cases’ in Child Marriage Law Face Criticism

The parliament in Bangladesh has been criticsed by civil society for allowing child marriages  in 'special cases'. The law allows girls under the age of 18 to marry. This is a major setback in the fight against child marriages in the country. Despite a thirty year old law banning child marriage for girls under 18 and boys under 21 years, Bangladesh is one of the countries with the highest number of child brides in the world.

Child abuse

It is not clear in which "special cases" child marriages will be allowed. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared that a marriage under the age of eighteen is permitted in the case of girls who elope, are raped or bear children out of wedlock. Such as a situation in which a marriage can save the honor of the girl and the family in the very conservative country.

Abuse

According to the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition and the Girls Not Brides Alliance, of which Terre des Hommes is a member, the law can easily be exploited by the vague definition of the 'special cases'. This new child marriage law means that girls are at greater risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, rape and early pregnancy. The Child Rights Advocacy Coalition and the Girls Not Brides Alliance issued a joint statement against the bill and has started an active lobbying campaign to prevent the bill from being passed.

2 out of 3 girls

A study conducted by UNICEF stated that two out of three girls are married in Bangladesh before their eighteenth birthday. This happens because of poverty, lack of education, social security and/or cultural beliefs. But child brides are both physically and mentally not ready for a mature relationship and responsibilities, such as carrying and bearing a child.

Assistance to child brides

Besides lobbying and organising awareness campaigns with the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition and Girls Not Brides Alliance, Terre des Hommes works with local partners to implement a three-year project called ‘Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls Empowerment’ or ‘IMAGE’. The project aims to help young girls that are already married. A vulnerable group that civil society should not overlook. 

Stop violence against girls

Bangladesh is one of the three targeted countries in Asia where members of the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA), a collaboration between Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Plan Netherlands, Defence for Children-ECPAT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, work together to stop various forms of violence against girls and young women and increase their economic participation. 

The programme aims to advocate and lobby key stakeholders such as local governments, the private sector, and local leaders to pay more attention and take responsibility for improving lives of girls and young women in the community. Dutch companies are also involved in the process to ensure good working condition for young women as their employees.

 

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