Experts say at least 50% of girls in ward no 8 are victim to the practice
Although local administration declared a ward in Kurigram free of child marriage in October, social welfare activists say at least 50% of girls in the ward are still married during their adolescence.
Khorshed Alam, general secretary of a union based social organization, Chhaya, said: "The rate of child marriage in Goghdah union is around 50%. We have tried to prevent child marriages from taking place since our organization was founded. Failing in most cases we began working to raise social awareness."
"Most of the child marriages are officiated secretly in the dead of the night, one of such incidents occurred on November 24. So when we received the report we had nothing more to do."
"However ours and the government’s initiatives have been working, the rate of child marriage has decreased to 50% from 70%."
A 2014 UNICEF report – Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects – says In Kurigram, 78% girls under 18 were married that year.
RDRS Bangladesh, a non-governmental organization (NGO) is working with the government under their Building a Better Future for Girls (BBFG) project. When contacted over phone, Rezwan Shatil, the project officer said: "We are not directly involved when the local administration declared the ward free of child marriage. Nevertheless, any such declaration remains under observation for three years, and revised accordingly."
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nilufa Yasmin of Kurigram Sadar, said: "We are receiving frequent assertions of child marriage. In most cases the marriages are occurring outside the union, and often discreetly. We have maintained our efforts to prevent child marriage and the higher authorities are notified to assist us with our shortcomings in the best possible way."
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The Union Parishad Chairman Shah Alam couldn't be reached for comment when contacted over the phone.
On November 25, this correspondent paid a visit to a meeting of a government care initiative for mothers in postpartum stage in the union. Most of the beneficiaries in the meeting were found to be victims of child marriage.
Hajera Begum of Brahmmattor village in Ghogdah union was married when she was in the seventh grade. She is now 16, and is a mother of twin babies. Similarly, Lipi Khatun of the same village was married when she was 12. She just reached 15, and has to take care of a baby. Akhi, Shahna Akhter, and many others in the union are also the victims of child marriage.
Atikur Rahman, employee of a NGO said child marriage persists in the district due to the lack of social security and poverty. In some cases the marriages are being officiated in presence of cognizant locals, but in most of the cases the marriages are taking place secretly.
When he was asked how come the girls are married as it is essential to do online registration for marriages, Atikur said: "The Kazi's who officiate child marriages, documents every piece of information of the bride and groom and declare them as husband and wife as per religious doctrines. Later the marriages are registered when the bride comes of age.
A woman, who had married off her tenth-grade daughter, said: "Girls receive a lot of proposals when they grow a bit older. We arranged the marriage fearing harm to our daughter. Moreover, a low amount of dowry is demanded when the bride is younger."