Request for specific allocation in the 2020-21 national budget to eliminate child marriage and increase social security for girls and adolescents
Girls Not Brides Bangladesh is a platform of 29 international, national, and grassroots organizations that have been working in Bangladesh to end child marriage since 2013.
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Because of the outbreak of Covid-19, women and girls have had to face new challenges. It has also had a negative impact on the country's economy. The platform has noticed that since March 2020, people, especially women, have been facing health, employment, and food security risks due to the outbreak of Covid-19. At the same time, violence and sexual harassment against women and girls are on the rise, and women's social security is declining. According to surveys by various organizations and news published in newspapers, the economic and social crisis caused by Covid-19 has increased the risk of girls and adolescents dropping out of school, also increased the rate of child marriages. This has also put women's reproductive health at a higher risk.
The international organization Plan International monitors child marriage in Kurigram district. According to a report by the agency, the number of child marriages in the district was 8% in February and March this year, and by May, child marriages increased to 11%. In these four months, 121 child marriages took place in Kurigram district alone. Gradually, the number of registered marriages is decreasing, and that of unregistered marriages is increasing. The Foundation for People conducted mobile phone surveys in 53 districts in April and May, with 70,543 respondents participating. According to that survey, 15,274 women and girls were abused in April-May, 203 adolescents were victims of child marriage, and 374 child marriages were prevented. According to the BRAC study, 85% of child marriages took place as families worried about the future condition of their daughters, 71% was because the educational institutions remained closed, and 62% were due to getting proposals outside their areas. Ward Vision's research says girls and adolescents have become the victims of child marriage, as parents want to save the family members from the terrible financial crisis that has been created because of the pandemic. Thus, the poorest families are choosing this negative solution as a way out of starvation. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad analyzed the news of 14 national newspapers, and published a report stating that from March to May, 206 women and girls were raped. Girls not Brides fears the decades of social progress in preventing all forms of violence against women, including child and forced marriages, to be subsided by the threats of Covid-19.
During this difficult time, the Finance Minister of Bangladesh presented the budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 in the Parliament. As we all know, the budget is not just about allocating money for a one-year program, it is also an outline of a one-year action plan. It was hoped that the disaster budget would provide special attention and a significant amount of money for women and girls. The allocation for the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs in the proposed budget for FY 2020-21 has increased from the revised allocation for the outgoing FY to Tk71 crore. The proposed budget will increase social security for girls, prevent child marriage, and ensure adolescent girls return to school. However, there is no specific allocation in this budget for the implementation of various programs outlined in the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Child Marriage 2018-2030 adopted by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh.
Considering these aspects, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and other concerned agencies have been allocated separately in this year's budget for the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Child Marriage 2018-2030, and for increasing the social security of girls and adolescents. The platform hopes that their recommendations will be considered for inclusion in the national budget, and effective steps will be taken in this regard.