Speaking at the dialogue, advocacy lead of BRAC's gender studies and diversity department, Taqbir Huda, said that the minimum age of 18 and 14 in child marriage and child labour respectively, was being violated. The parents often consent to this. Children drop out of school because of child marriage and child labour and live in poverty.
Because the government had taken up the Digital Bangladesh initiative from beforehand, the people could avail this in various ways during the pandemicZunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for information and communication technology (ICT)
The state of child marriage and child labour has worsened during the corona pandemic, he said, adding that 51 per cent of the girls in Bangladesh married before the age of 18, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). Also, 1.35 million (13.5 lakh) girls under the age of 18 and 750,000 (7.5 lakh) girls under the age of 14 were employed as child labour. Girls engaged in domestic work at households were not included in these figures. Birth certificates, National ID (NID) cards and school certificates must be checked when registering marriages. These same documents must be verified by employers and labour inspectors to prevent child labour.
BRAC's executive director Asif Saleh, said that many problems could be resolved through the use of technology in implementing the law to prevent child marriage and child labour
State minister for information and communication technology (ICT) Zunaid Ahmed Palak, speaking as chief guest at the dialogue, said the government would be launching an online app, 'Bandhan', to detect false age certificates and prevent deception. The NID would be attached to this. He said he hoped that this would reduce child marriage considerably. He said all problems could be resolved by means of technology. He also said that because the government had taken up the Digital Bangladesh initiative from beforehand, the people could avail this in various ways during the pandemic.
Special guest on the occasion, BRAC's executive director Asif Saleh, said that many problems could be resolved through the use of technology in implementing the law to prevent child marriage and child labour. The Surokkha app for the Covid-19 vaccine and the 999 number for information were popular because both these technologies were within the reach of the people. By relying on the capacity that lies within the country, the use of technology can also be used easily to prevent child marriage and child labour. At the same time, parents must also be alert against displaying any discrimination against the girl child in the family.
Additional deputy inspector general of police, Mohammad Tobarak Ullah of the National Emergency Service, said the use of the mobile court in preventing child marriage must also be made easier. He said the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) was in charge of conducting the mobile court as magistrate. Information about child marriage is often given over the 999 phone number, but this can't always be coordinated with the UNO. The union parishad chairmen and members often fail to extend their cooperation saying that they are too busy. He said once 999 was set up, from 2018 till now, 11,668 calls were received. The number of calls for women regarding child marriage was less, only 19 per cent.
Syed Munira Sultana, national expert and programme coordinator, ILO, said in order to prevent child marriage, strict implementation of the law was required along with ensuring social security of child workers. It was not a difficult task to provide protection to child workers with a little coordination can care, by means of registrations cards. If there can be a coordination between the compulsory primary education age and the minimum age for work, 95 per cent of the children could be kept away from labour.
President of Bangladesh Muslim Niqah Registrars Association (Dhaka district) Mohammad Abdul Wahed said that a system must be in place to record all information of a child from birth. There is no provision to use the birth certificate number on the marriage registration form. Such a provision could help the qazis to easily verify the age online and check if the certificate was genuine or false, and whether a child marriage was taking place.
Associate professor of North South University's department of electrical and computer engineering Nova Ahmed highlighted her experience in the use of technology in tea gardens and garment industries, saying that we would have to carry out research and determine the solution to the problems of our own country. While there are many weaknesses in the country, there is great capacity too.
The dialogue was moderated by director of BRAC's Department of Gender Justice and Diversity Nobonita Chowdhury. She said, remaining out of the database means remaining out of technology. Each and every person of the society must be connected to technology. The use of technology must be made easier.