Last year, more than 50% girls got married by 18th birthday
More than half of the girls in the country were married by their 18th birthdays in 2017, says a report published marking ‘Child Rights Week 2018’ in Dhaka.
A report titled “Children in Bangladesh: Progress towards Commitments in 2017,” said though the overall child marriage rate in Bangladesh has declined and its structure has changed in recent decades, the rate of child marriage continues to be highest in the world.”
Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) on behalf of the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition, presented the report at a program held at the National Press Club auditorium on Thursday.
A survey conducted in 85 cases in 19 districts of the country during 2016 to 2017, revealed that the rate of child marriage under the age of 15 declined from 62.8% in 2015 to 10.7% in 2017, while the rate of child marriages under the age of 18 years has gone down from 62.8 % in 2015 to 59.7 % in 2016.
Ain O Salish Kendra, Action Aid Bangladesh, the Child Rights Governance Assembly, Education and Development Foundation, the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, Plan International, Terre Des Hommes- Netherlands, Save the Children Bangladesh, and World Vision Bangladesh worked in coalition on the report.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 bill, passed in the parliament on 27 February last year with a special provision, allows a boy or a girl to get married before reaching the statutory age limit in some exceptional cases.
The Act increased the maximum penalty from one month with fines, to two years of imprisonment with fines for violating the law,” the report said.
As the rules of procedure have not been confirmed yet there is a huge possibility of misuse of the Act, the coalition said.
Formulating rules for the Child marriage Restraint Act 2017 immediately, clarifying the existing gaps to prevent misuse of the “special circumstances” clause, ensuring exemplary punishment for invoking the special provision as a loophole for child marriage, eradicating gaps in public policy around birth registration and rising brutality against children by adults, and taking necessary measures to immediately establish a separate “Child Directorate” were some of the recommendations.
Establishing a monitoring cell to check underage marriages was also suggested. The report drew attention to persistent and troubling challenges for children in 2017.
Laila Jesmin, additional secretary, Women and Children Affairs Ministry, addressed the program as chief guest.
Emphasizing raising public awareness and social responsibilities to protect child rights, she said child rights cannot be protected only by laws and regulations.
“An awareness campaign should be launched widely to sensitize the general public to children’s rights, and a child friendly environment should be constructed,” she said.
Among others, Ain o Salish Kendra executive director, Shipa Hafiz, Save the Children Manager for Civil Society and Policy Advocacy, Child Rights Governance and Child Protection, Rasheda Akter, also spoke at the event.
Efforts to reduce child marriage
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs in Bangladesh with UNICEF and partners, has been implementing a multi-media campaign on ending child marriage across the country.
The campaign includes radio and television public service announcements, outdoor publicity,as well as printed media and advocacy events. Since its launch in July 2017, the campaign has garnered high interest and visibility. The social media component alone has reached over 25 million Bangladeshis.
The government has launched a National Action Plan to end child marriage and has been supporting 5,000 community-based adolescent clubs. These clubs, run by the Ministry of Women and Children, discuss and address harmful social practices like child marriage. The government also operates two helplines (1098 and 109) to combat violence against women and children; it also provides outreach services to women and children to stop child marriage.
Working throughout the country, Plan International has successfully stopped some 2,000 child marriages in the last three years alone, and has reached around 700,000 young people who should be able to say no to marriage.