The government was also severely criticized for keeping a special provision in the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 that could be abused, allowing parents to marry off their children under 18 with a court order
Women and child rights activists say the rate of child marriage has not gone down much, although the government on several occasions has claimed the situation has improved significantly.
The government was also severely criticized for keeping a special provision in the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 that could be abused, allowing parents to marry off their children under 18 with a court order.
In a meeting on the evaluation of “Bride not before 18” campaign, researchers, child rights activists, NGO workers, and specialists on Thursday discussed the current child marriage scenario and explained how child marriage is contributing to other sexual abuse of under-age girls.
“Bride not before 18”, a campaign launched jointly by the National Human Rights Commission and World Vision, ended in late 2017. Bangladesh law sets the minimum age for marriage for men and women at 21 and 18 respectively.
Sohana Mehjabin Raptee, senior client service executive to Nielsen Company (BD), a market research company, said they have seen that using fake birth certificates to facilitate child marriage is still highly prevalent.
She also said the online birth registration system which was just introduced across the country needs more time, perhaps years, to be effective.
Almost all the respondents of their research said they knew the legal minimum marriage age for a man is 21, and 18 for a woman, said Sohana.
But when they are getting their young child into marriage, they forget everything, she added.
In her presentation, Sohana said religious preachers could play a strong role in stopping child marriage. Approached for help, preachers step up to the occasion but not wholeheartedly, because of their religious beliefs.
Nishath Sultana, program coordinator (Gender Justice Diversity) of Brac, said child marriages stem mainly from social insecurity. Among other societal factors, parents are reluctant and unable to continue supporting their children till the legal age of marriage.
Sabrina Nupur, deputy director for Advocacy and Justice for Children at World Vision, said the act is not enforced properly and it encourages people to continue breaking the law.
Professor Dr Shahnaj Huda of the department of Law, University of Dhaka, said the culture of impunity is playing a key role in this.
Dowry is another major reason driving child marriage she said, adding that misconceptions about religious directives leads parents into favouring child marriage.