Section 19 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017, which allows underage marriages to be conducted for special cases, is both frustrating and dangerous, said National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Rezaul Hoque.
Speaking as chief guest at the National Conference to Follow-up on Regional Action Plan to Combat Child Marriage yesterday, Reazul suggested that the government should form laws to resist the misuse of the provision in order to fully protect child rights.
The NHRC chief also urged members of civil society to raise social awareness regarding underage marriages and to take an active stance against child marriages.
“Section 19 is very disappointing. The government should realise that this may have the disastrous effect of increasing child marriages across the country,” he added.
Noting the high possibility of misuse of the law, Reazul urged the government to take a proactive position and provide training for judges so that they can effectively deal with the special circumstances.
“We have many laws and rules, but those are not implemented properly. If the rules do not work, an amendment has to be made to eliminate the section from the act,” he explained.
Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) Senior Legal Advisor Purna Shrestha said the CRR, which works on a global scale to address violations against women and to fight for reproductive rights, was focusing its Asian programmes on putting an end to the violation of female rights and to child marriages in the region.
“Child marriage is the beginning of a cycle of violation which has a lifetime impact on the victim’s life. Strict practices of law and responsible behavior in society may help vastly in preventing child marriage,” she said.
Ministry of Women and Children Affairs Additional Secretary Md Mashuk Miah said the government and its associate organizations were working on the issue and that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had declared that child marriages would be eliminated from the country within 2041.
“Given the many governmental initiatives and the progress in those, it seems to us that child marriages will be brought under control before 2041,” he explained.
SAIEVAC Director General Rinchen Chophel, who was chairing the event, said the organization had organized a number of technical meetings and consulations and had adopted the Regional Action Plan (RAP) to end child marriage in South Asia as part of its mandate and operational plan for issue-based action against child marriage.
The conference was jointly organised by NHRC and National Action and Coordination Group, Bangladesh (NACG) in collaboration with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) Regional Secretariat and CRR at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.
Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division Joint Secretary Md Moinul Kabir and NACG Chair and INICDIN Executive Director AKM Masud Ali were also present at the conference as special guests.