Child marriage must be fought holistically
Child marriage continues to be a problem in Bangladesh, and the reasons for this run deep.
Many families, particularly low-income families in rural areas, are keen to marry off their female children as early as possible, creating a bad example for other families to follow.
As a result, in spite of admirable efforts from the government and various NGOs, the toxic idea that girls should be married off very young still has a strong grip over many parts of society.
But it is good to see that sometimes, indirect approaches have surprisingly positive outcomes; the Ending Child Labour in Bangladesh project funded by Terres des homes, for example, has been effective in reducing child marriage.
This goes to show that child marriage must be fought holistically: Of course, there are already laws in place, but since the problem is largely social, cultural, and economic, the efficacy of these laws have been limited.
Social attitudes can be changed by empowering girls and breaking down taboos -- there exists in our society a strong taboo against matters relating to sex, sexual health, and pregnancy, and many parents think marrying their daughters off early is a convenient way to avoid scandals or difficult conversations.
But as difficult as they are, these conversations need to be had, within families as well as on a policy level, so that the overall mindset towards the upbringing of girls changes.
In the end, parents need to understand that girls should be educated, empowered, and nurtured; they are not problems to be solved, but investments that will give back manifold.