All you need to do is take a look at any of the country’s leading newspapers to know exactly why the Child Marriage Act 2016 needs to be prohibited from being passed in the cabinet.
It’s definitely a step in the right direction that our government is finally going to take some concrete actions in the fight to make child marriage in our country a thing of the past.
But brows are definitely raised at the prospect of the marriageable age of girls being lowered from 18 to 16 in the process.
Despite the age of 18 in terms of marriageability having been a clear line of demarcation for a while now, it didn’t stop child marriage because of the relatively lax implementation of such laws.
But, needless to say, I highly doubt if lowering the marriageable age for girls will be the ultimate solution to getting rid of child marriage.
A recent Human Rights Watch report very plainly laid out the potential reasons for child marriage still being a phenomenon in countries such as Bangladesh. Poverty, lack of technical education, and lack of women empowerment are but a few of the reasons behind this hideous tradition still being left unattended in our country.
Despite the age of 18 in terms of marriageability having been a clear line of demarcation for a while now, it didn’t stop child marriage because of the relatively lax implementation of such laws. But I highly doubt if lowering the marriageable age for girls will be the ultimate solution
Which is why I have come up with a few talking points for the government in its endeavour to, once and for all, eliminate child marriage from our culture.
1. Provisions contained in Child Marriage Prohibition Act-2016 for “special marriage” in cases of “accidental or unlawful pregnancy” should be abolished.
2. Technical education should be ensured as a basic right for girls from the primary level through college.
3. We need to promote the empowerment of women in our culture.
4. Education should be made completely free including for women and a monthly stipend should be allotted to girls for their skills-based education and all educational materials to girls should be free provisions.
5. Mass awareness should be raised within both the family to the classroom about the harmful effects of child marriage. TV media, radio, and internet media could play very important roles in this case.
6. The minimum age of marriage for girls should not be made lower than 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
7. Existing provisions for punishing offenders of the child marriage act should be made more strict.
8. Smart ID card and unalterable birth certificates should be ensured at the time of marriage.
This is my plea to our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to please revise the Child Marriage Act-2016 draft.
Lowering the marriageable age for girls is a bad idea, and is likely to lead to more problems down the line.
If the government allows the draft law as it stands, the entire country stands to suffer in the long run.
Md Selim Reza is a freelance contributor.