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To What End?

Child Marriage Under ‘Special Circumstances’

Ibtisam Sayef     9th March, 2017 08:56:06 printer

To What End?

Child marriage is a very common practice in our country. Teenagers are the main victims of child marriage.

According to UNICEF, Bangladesh has the fourth-highest rate of child marriage in the world after Niger, the Central African Republic and Chad. Though the amount of child marriage has decreased in urban areas but still it is very common in the rural areas. As people in the urban areas, especially girls, are attending school more and more, so they are becoming conscious about the consequences of child marriage. But village people are not well-aware of the outcomes of child marriage.


Education plays a great role in this regard. As village people are not well educated, they believe in many superstitions. They believe that if they marry off their girl at an early age, it will protect the girl’s sexuality and their social honour. Moreover village people treat their girl child as a burden. Girls are not treated equally in our society. They think that girls will not take care of them at their old age and boys will be their support in their old age. So they marry off their girl child at a very young age to get rid of the burden.


Again poverty plays a very important role. The poor villagers’ perception is that the marriage of their girl child will lessen the burden of arranging food for one mouth. They do not bother about the age of the girl. According to the law of Bangladesh, the legal age of marriage for a boy is 21 and 18 for a girl. But often we can see that there is no implication of this law in the rural areas. 11-17 is the most common age for a girl child in the villages. This is very terrific. According to a survey, 29 percent of girls in Bangladesh get married before the age of 15 and 65 percent get married before the age of 18. In the last few years Bangladesh has tremendously developed in different sectors but it is a matter of great regret that still we are lagging behind in this case.


On top of that, last month parliament passed the much-talked-about Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017 with a clause allowing child marriages under special circumstances. “Underage marriage will not be termed a crime if it takes place in a special situation for the best interest of the girl with permission from the court, consent of parents following the process defined by the law,” says the special clause of the law. What about the will of the children in case of such marriage? Well, there is no mention of the will of the children in the clause. So, the future circumstances are predictable enough.


There was already a law related to marriage in our country. According to that law, marriage before 18 will be granted as offence and the offender has to face imprisonment or has to pay a fixed amount of money as penalty. But most of the time this law is not implemented in the rural areas. Rural people do not follow this rule and even they are not actually punished for violating such law in the long run. Now because of the new law, the offenders and ill-minded people will get inspired as there is a provision of child marriage under special circumstances. Now they will feel free to commit such crime and later defend themselves in court referring to ‘special circumstances’. Moreover it is not a big deal for them to get permission from the court, consequently the situation of child marriage will take a severe form in our country.  


In the meantime, if such law exists, then the offenders will take it for granted that they can do whatever they want. For instance- after raping a child the culprit will express his desire to marry that girl, then her parents will marry her off to the rapist. And court will have nothing to do in this case. As a result the child’s life will be destroyed. This is just one simple assumption. Many more such incidents may happen because of newly enacted law.


It is also mentionable that a girl child of around 14 or 15 is not at all physically or mentally prepared for marriage. So, early marriage (whatever the reason may be) will cause her many physical damages. Experts say that girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die during delivery than mothers aged 20-24 and girls aged 15-19 are twice more likely to die during delivery than women aged 20-24. At the same time a teenager is not mature enough to take the responsibilities of her in-laws. But she has to take the responsibilities unwillingly due to child marriage whereas her age is to play with dolls. Most importantly many girls have to stop attending school because of early marriage. Along with all these problems, many new complications may arise if people are allowed to take advantage of new child marriage act with the provision of marriage under special circumstances. Therefore, authorities should rethink about this issue for the sake of the girls.  


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