'Creation of awareness will prevent child marriage'

The roundtable meeting was organised at the Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital under the title 'The prevalence of Covid reduction, will child marriage be reduced?'Prothom Alo

Different dimensions should be brought in the campaign for raising awareness to prevent child marriage and campaigns should be organised keeping male members of the family as the focal point.

Families will receive this message if it is properly explained how much harm child marriage causes to a family.

Speakers made these observations at a roundtable meeting organised jointly by Worldvision and Prothom Alo on Sunday.

According to them, the government and non-government organisations may allocate separate budget to spread the message to the families about the harm of child marriage through using the media other than their usual activities.

The roundtable meeting was organised at the Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital under the title 'The prevalence of Covid reduction, will child marriage be reduced?'

The speakers mentioned child marriage as a national crisis, emphasizing to strengthen the monitoring system, activate the child marriage prevention committee at the union and upazila level and increase the budget, they also emphasized on bringing out the actual data of how many child marriages are taking place.

Planning minister MA Mannan
Prothom Alo

It is also recommended to ensure that children who are victims of child marriage are not deprived of their basic rights including education.

The keynote was presented by deputy director (advocacy) of the World Vision Bangladesh, Nishat Sultana.

According to it, Bangladesh ranks the fourth in the world and first in South Asia in terms of child marriage. About 52 per cent of girls in this country get married before they turn 18.

The rate of child marriage has increased manifold due to covid. In order to reach the goal set by government to eradicate child marriage before 2041, the current attempts to stop the child marriage must be increased eight times.

Jatiya Party MP Shamim Hayder Patwary
Prothom Alo

Speaking as the chief guest at the event, planning minister MA Mannan said that the trend of child marriage that has traditionally existed should be changed. Now, the wealth level of the country has increased, the awareness has also been increased more than before.

There is a chance of achieving success if these attempts are combined and dealt at the national level. The government alone cannot deal with it. A concerted effort is needed. In that case, those who are in favor of child marriage should also be explained and kept in this initiative.

As many as three members of parliament spoke as honoured guests in the event. Among them, Jatiya Party MP Shamim Hayder Patwary proposed to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21.

However, if you want to marry a girl after 18 years to 21 years, he proposed to take the permission of the court in a special provision. He said, if the time of conception of these girls may be deferred, the expenditure on maternal and child health will be reduced.

BNP MP Rumin Farhan
Prothom Alo

BNP MP Rumin Farhan said the current regime attempted to reduce the minimum marriage age from 18 to 16 to show lower rate of child marriage. The government had to postpone it after facing resistance from many quarters. However, there are still ambiguities in the law as special provision is added. That is why opportunities are there for child marriage.

Awami League MP Jhorna Gloria Sarker
Prothom alo

Awami League MP Jhorna Gloria Sarker said, "there is no lack of sincerity from government about preventing child marriage. Changes will not occur overnight. We have to move step by step by creating awareness about child marriage."

Tony Michael Gomes, director (Advocacy and External Engagement) of World Vision Bangladesh, in the speech as the chairman of the meeting, advised to make a difference in the campaign and said that it will not work only by making the teenage girl aware of the mother and the family. Emphasis should be placed on making men aware.

Participating in the panel discussion, associate editor of Prothom Alo Abdul Quayum and Kishore Alo editor Anisul Hoque said that the people of this country accept new ideas very easily. So people will accept it if proper publicity shows how much loss a family may suffer due to child marriage. To reach this message, new videos and ideas should be spread using mass media, social media.

Tony Michael Gomes, director (Advocacy and External Engagement) of World Vision Bangladesh
Prothom Alo

Kashfia Feroz, director (Girls' Rights) of Plan International Bangladesh commented that political parties should have a commitment to prevent child marriage in their election campaigns to create awareness. He said that the challenge of child marriage can be tackled in any calamity like Covid if proper process is followed.

Director of Gender Justice and Diversity Division of BRAC Nabonita Chowdhury said, child marriage ends all opportunities of a girl's life. There is a dearth of statistics about child marriage. Child marriage increased during Covid. Information about this number is not available.

Prothom Alo's associate editor Abdul Quayum said, if, somehow, a child marriage is done, the measures should be taken to keep the girl with her parents.

UNICEF's child protection expert Monira Hasan said awareness training should be increased at the grassroots level to prevent child marriage.

Musician Somnoor Monir Konal said the tactics that will attract people should be applied. Parents who educate rather than force their children to marry should be brought forward as an example again and again.

Nasima Akhter Jolly, editor of National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, said that child marriage committees at the union level should meet regularly and the monitoring must be increased so that they send information about child marriage of their respective areas.

In the ceremony, two Kazis, Secretary General of Bangladesh Muslim Nikah Registrar Association Maulana Md Iqbal Hossain and Dhaka district president of the organization Muhammad Abdul Wahed said, Kazis never conduct child marriage.

Many families arrange child marriages of sons and daughters with fake birth certificates through notary public. By providing a unique number for the child from birth, there will be no opportunity to hide the age.

The roundtable meeting was conducted by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Chowdhury.