Participating in the Girl Summit held in London in July 2015, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced her goal of completely ending child marriage of girls before the age of 15 by 2021 and before the age of 18 by 2041
Child marriage has increased alarmingly in recent times. Experts had anticipated that the trend might go up after the pandemic. Reports of foiling at least five child marriages in different places of the country have been published in the media between Wednesday and Friday. Many such marriages are not reported in the media. According to the 2017 law to prevent child marriage, legal action including imprisonment and fines will be taken against persons involved in the marriage of a girl below the age of 18 and a boy below the of age 21.
According to the news reports, five child marriages were stopped in a span of 72 hours, but we do not know how many such marriages took place in the meantime. The father of the ninth grade madrasa student in the village of Tikori in Gurudaspur of Natore Abul Hossain has been fined Tk 10,000. Police foiled a child marriage at Dakshin Nishchintpur village in Rangunia, Chittagong.
Rafiqul Islam, a kazi (marriage registrar), has been sentenced to six months in jail for conducting the marriage of an eighth grade student in Jamalpur's Bakshiganj. Nazma Begum has been sentenced to one year imprisonment in Bhola's Char Fashion for arranging the marriage of a teenage girl using a fake birth certificate. The local administration has foiled the child marriage of a ninth class student in Hajipara area of Ramu in Cox's Bazar.
Experts and sociologists have been saying since the beginning of the COVID-19 situation that the number of child marriages will increase. They fear that this trend will increase due to the economic crisis of the poor and underprivileged people of the country, in perceived safety of teenagers, closure of educational institutions and many other reasons.
According to a recent survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation, 462 girls were married off in June. Only 207 could be prevented. Earlier in May, 170 child marriages took place and 233 were averted.
Bangladesh ranks fourth in the world in terms of child marriage. According to UNICEF, 59 per cent of girls in this country get married before the age of 18. And 22 per cent of girls get married before they are 15. Participating in the Girl Summit held in London in July 2015, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced her goal of completely ending child marriage of girls before the age of 15 by 2021 and before the age of 18 by 2041.
The government's focus on child marriage seems to have shifted somewhat amid the myriad of new problems arisen during the pandemic. However, in this case, the activities of the local administration are positive in many cases. Voluntary organisations have also been formed in many parts of the country. Now we need family awareness and social movement. The rate at which child marriage is on the rise requires raising awareness as well as proper enforcement of existing laws.