This is not only the picture of two schools or districts; this is prevalent in most of the educational institutes of remote areas. A survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation finds that child marriage has seen a 50 per cent increase during times of corona. Around 48 per cent of girls aged 13 to 15 years are being married off. The survey was conducted in 84 upazilas of 21 districts from April to October 2020. The survey report published recently says a total of 12,886 incidents of child marriage took place in 21 districts. Borguna saw the highest 1512 child marriages while the number was 1,272 and 1,222 in Kurigram and Nilphamari.
According to sources, during corona times, shortcomings developed in the surveillance mechanism to prevent child marriage. As a result, parents who were insolvent and lacking in awareness married off their girls an early age. The local people’s representatives, administration and teachers have failed to play their due roles in this end.
Along with enforcement of laws, mobilisation of social awareness is needed to get rid of the scourge of child marriage. Legal actions should be taken against the guardians and registrars who were involved with the marriage of below-aged girls. Steps should be taken against the instigators too. There are debates over the law enacted in 2017 to stop child marriage. Although the minimum age of marriage of girls has been set at 18 years and boys at 21 years according to the law, there are provisions of some ‘special concession’. Prothom Alo has taken stance against that concession from the very beginning. Such concession is enough to render the law ineffective in a country where underaged boys and girls are married off showing increased age.
Stopping child marriage is one of the main priority programmes of the government but it cannot exist merely on paper. It should be found out how many students dropped out and how many of them were victims of child marriage during corona. The authorities can find alternative steps so that the drop-outs can continue their studies if possible. Guardians, the communities and the government have to ensure no girl drops out of school due to child marriage.