Stop plan to lower marriage age to 16, HRW to BD

09 June,2015

RTNN News Desk: Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based
global rights body, has urged the Bangladesh government to stop its
move to lower girls’ marriage age to 16.

“The Bangladesh government is yet to take sufficient steps to end
child marriage in spite of promises to do so,” it said in a new
report released on Tuesday.

Instead, in steps in the wrong direction, after her July 2014 pledge
to end child marriage by 2041, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina attempted to lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 16
years old, raising serious doubts about her commitment, the HRW said.

Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage of girls under the
age of 15 in the world, with 29 percent of girls in Bangladesh
married before age 15, according to a Unicef study.

“Child marriage is an epidemic in Bangladesh, and only worsens with
natural disasters,” said Heather Barr, senior researcher on women’s
rights.

“The Bangladesh government has said some of the right things, but its
proposal to lower the age of marriage for girls sends the opposite
message. The government should act before another generation of girls
is lost."

The 134-page report, “Marry Before Your House is Swept Away: Child
Marriage in Bangladesh,” is based on more than a hundred interviews
conducted across the country, most of them with married girls, some
as young as age 10.

Child marriage has been illegal in Bangladesh since 1929 and the
minimum age of marriage has been set at 18 for women and 21 for men
since the 1980s.

Despite that, Bangladesh has the fourth-highest rate in the world of
child marriage before age 18, after Niger, the Central African
Republic, and Chad. Sixty-five percent of girls in Bangladesh marry
before age 18.

The government’s failure to enforce the existing law against child
marriage and address the factors that contribute to it means that
child marriage is a frequent coping mechanism for poor families.

Another finding of the report is the role natural disasters play in
child marriage. Bangladesh is among the countries in the world most
affected by natural disasters and climate change; many families are
pushed by disasters into deepening poverty, which increases the risk
that their daughters will be married as children.

“The Bangladesh government should follow through vigorously and
promptly on the public commitments Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made
to end child marriage,” Barr said.

“The first step should be to back away immediately from the proposal
to lower the age of marriage for girls to 16.”

“The Bangladesh government’s inaction on child marriage is causing
devastating harm to one of the country’s greatest assets - its young
women,” said Barr.

“The government-and its donors-should do more to keep girls in
school, assist girls at risk of child marriage, fight sexual
harassment, and provide access to reproductive health information and
contraceptive supplies.

Most importantly, the government should enforce its own law against
child marriage.”

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