A father can play the pivotal role in stopping child marriage as his decision is considered the final one in Bangladesh’s social context, say experts
To understand the sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) of all genders and to stop child marriage, a father plays the most vital role in a patriarchal society like that in Bangladesh.
Speakers made the remarks during a webinar organized by Save the Children, Bangladesh, on the findings of an earlier held root-level advocacy dialogue.
The dialogue was arranged to raise awareness among fathers in the country on the role of men regarding SRHR and stopping child marriage, according to Save the Children.
As many as 2,340 men of 34 districts – moderated by 130 youth change makers – participated in the dialogue held in November regarding their role in preventing child marriage and ensuring SRHR.
The participants included students, teachers, public representatives, government officials, journalists, religious leaders, Muslim marriage registrars (Kazi), athletes and representatives of NGOs.
Speakers participating in the program identified child marriage as one of the biggest reasons behind domestic violence.
Citing a Brac study (conducted by James P Grant School of Public Health), Nibedita Barma, change maker of SRHR4ALL and End Child Marriage project, said: “Around 82% of girls in the villages and urban slums are victims of child marriage despite the legal age of marriage being 18 for women and 21 for men.”
“Since the child marriage rate is very high in Bangladesh, adolescents here are at risk of post-marital sexual abuse, marital rape, early pregnancy, violence during pregnancy, malnutrition, among other issues,” she said, adding, “It is easy to violate an under-aged wife.”
While reading out a press statement, Bangladesh Save the Children Gender Advisor Umme Salma suggested bringing about a change in the patriarchal mentality to put an end to domestic violence and child marriage.
She said: “The process of marrying off a girl begins very early, even before she could cross her adolescence. Girls are seen as a burden in a family. When a girl reaches puberty, her parents become anxious to protect her. The pressure of marriage on teenagers increases.
“So, a father can play the pivotal role in stopping child marriage as his decision is considered the final one in the social context of Bangladesh.”
Save the Children, at the webinar, also put forth a 15-point recommendation to address the aforementioned issues.