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Child marriages still widespread in rural areas in Bangladesh

(Xinhua)    14:01, March 30, 2015

DHAKA, March 30 -- Despite government efforts to curb the practice, child marriages are still rampant in the rural areas in Bangladesh contributing to population explosion along with illiteracy and lack of women empowerment in the country.

The official minimum age requirement for marriage among girls is 18 and for men 21 but many rural women get married at the age of 11 or 12. There are many reasons for child marriage, but most vital reasons among them are poverty, superstition, lack of proper education and social security.

Population growth in Bangladesh is little over 2 percent while the total population of the country is about 160 million. Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world.

The country's Women and Child Affairs Ministry could not give an exact figure of child marriages in a year. But it said the number of child marriages has gone down as shown in the corresponding increase in the enrollment of girls in schools.

The ministry said that proper education has created awareness among Bangladeshi women on the negative consequences of an early marriage not only on their health but also on their economic status.

In fact, the ministry said, more and more girls are protesting against forced marriage at their young age and reports about this are being published in newspapers.

A private television channel Shamoy on March 27 reported that parents have beaten their young daughter after she refused to get married but instead took the final examination in her school. She rejected the marriage arranged for her by her parents and told the television station that she wants to continue her studies to become a physician someday.

The incident happened in a remote village in the northern Joypurhat district.

Arranged marriages are still common in the rural villages in Bangladesh and usually the daughters have no choice but to follow their parents' order.

Another such incident took place earlier in the southern Barguna district. Because opposition to the arranged marriage, the young girl fled to capital Dhaka and sought help from concerned government agencies. She was given protection and assistance by the government.

It is reported that a brilliant young girl was forced to marry a man without her consent. She later broke her marriage and went back to school and her parents could not do anything about it.

Different women bodies are working to stop child marriages in the rural areas. They have started a campaign aimed primarily at parents who still believed that they have the right to marry their young daughters without the latter's consent.

According to a 2009 UNICEF report on the state of the world's children, early marriage is pervasive in Bangladesh with 64 percent of girls married before the age of 18. Early marriage often results in early pregnancy and many girls suffer from miscarriage later. One third of the girls aged 15 to 19 in Bangladesh are currently either mothers or pregnant.

Child marriage is legally prohibited in Bangladesh under the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. The law stipulates that the legal age for marriage for girls is 18 years.

This right to free and full consent to a marriage is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in many subsequent human rights instruments, consent cannot be considered free and full when at least one partner is very immature.

Bangladesh has also acceded on Oct. 5, l990 to the UN convention on consent to marriage, minimum age for marriage and registration of marriage. These international covenants, however, have little impact on the frequency of child marriages in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh government has actually considered lowering the age limit for girls to marry from 18 to 16 in order to legalize early marriages.

But a women forum strongly protested the government plan, saying that the government's move in lowering the age limit for the girls in certain cases seems to be a trick to give an impression that the number of child marriage has gone down in the country.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Yao Chun)

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