She was a student of class 6 at Rohita Union in Monirampur, Jassore. But the course of her life changed forever after her parents arranged her marriage to a boy from a neighbouring village.
Jhorna was only 14 years old when she was married and is now 22. Yet, she is already the divorced mother of a seven-year-old daughter.
She is also one of thousands of survivors of domestic violence and a victim of child marriage.
Within a few months of her marriage, Jhorna’s mother-in-law began to demand dowry from her father, and her husband, along with his other family members, began to abuse her physically. One day, he even held a knife to her throat, threatening to kill her because she protested against his abusive language. After that incident, Jhorna took her daughter and fled.
The plight of Jhorna and others like her was addressed by speakers at the closing ceremony of the “Protecting Human Rights Programme”, titled “Voices from the Grassroots”, on Wednesday.
The State Minister for the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) Meher Afroze Chumki said: “Child marriage is causing violence on women to increase. We have laws but we need to find out why we are going through these problems. Is it poverty, lack of education, or something else?”
She also urged for cooperation between the government and NGOs, saying that “the government cannot do everything alone”.
In addition, US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat drew attention to the problems within the proposed Child marriage Restraint Act 2016, saying: “I understand that the new law will allow for child marriage under special circumstances.”
“I hope the Government of Bangladesh will work closely with civil society to implement rules that restrict the conditions under which minor girls can be legally married,” she said.
MoWCA Secretary Nasima Begum, Executive Director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) Salma Ali, Chief of Party for Plan International Henry Alderfer, and Mission Director for USAID Bangladesh Janina Jaruzelski also spoke at the event, among others.
The event was jointly organised by Plan International and BNWLA while supported by USAID in Dhaka.
The five –year “Protecting Human Rights Programme” was implemented by Plan International Bangladesh in partnership with BNWLA and 11 other organisations. The programme provided psychological counseling services to 70,456 victims, legal services to 13,674 domestic violence survivors and referrals to 4,922. Furthermore, it declared 33 child marriage free unions and prevented 1,429 child marriages across 120 unions and nine upazilas of six districts.