The reasons behind the persistence of child marriage are complex, but we ignore them at our own peril
It goes without saying that Bangladesh has a child marriage problem.
A dismaying report from UNFPA reveals that Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage -- 59% in the 2006 to 2017 period -- in South Asia.
In spite of concerted efforts by the government and NGOs, and in spite of the existence of plenty of laws, under-age marriage continues unchecked in Bangladesh, and a large part of the problem, no doubt, is social and cultural.
First, in poor families, particularly in rural areas, security is a major concern for young girls; therefore, their families might often see early marriage is a solution to various forms of harassment faced by girls.
Second, there exists in our society a powerful taboo against pre-marital sex, not to mention an unwillingness to talk about matters relating to sexual health and pregnancy, and some parents decide to marry off their daughters simply in order to avoid difficult conversations or a scandal.
But avoiding the real issues through hasty marriage is not a solution -- parents must be made to stop seeing their daughters are problems to be solved, and start seeing them as investments that will grow.
This means focusing on girls’ education, and giving them the skills to become independent in the world, and in our competitive job market.
It must be acknowledged that the reasons behind the persistence of child marriage are complex, but we ignore them at our own peril; failing to tackle this problem not only fails our young population but also the economic development of our nation.