A new Bangladesh law has reduced the minimum age of marriages to zero. Yes, you read it right. It means child marriage is legal in Bangladesh. Last week, Bangladesh parliament approved a law which permits girls under the age of 18 can marry under ‘special circumstances’.
The country already has the highest rate of child marriage in Asia. After this law, the situation is going to be more disturbing. Human Rights watch called the move a ‘devastating step backward for the fight against child marriage in Bangladesh’.
Statistics say the country ranks one of the tops in the world; 52% of the girls married before 18 and 18% married before 15.
The law also makes the situation worst as marital rape is a big problem in the country and experts say it will also severely increase the cases of early pregnancy.
Girls Not Brides, a coalition of nearly 650 charities highly criticised the law. “The proposed law was open to abuse since it gave no definition of the term “special cases”. The group has worked with thousands of girls who have been rescued from child marriages.
The group in a statement said, “The need to protect the ‘honour’ of girls who have become pregnant was widely cited by the Bangladesh government as the reason for this provision.”
A senior researcher of Women’s Rights Division, Heather Barr said, “Nothing can change the fact that this is a destructive law. But carefully drafted regulations can mitigate some of the harm to girls.”
The Bangladesh Government claimed that the new law has been proposed to challenge “accidental or unlawful pregnancy of unwed girls.”
Rani, now 16 was under pressure to marry when she was 14. When the boy’s family found out the relation between them they insisted that they should get married.
Even the boy threatened to kill himself and his family said they would kidnap her if she did not agree to marry him.
The news had spread and arrangements were made after a woman’s affairs officer got involved. Two years after the incident, Rani said, “I lost faith in men. Men can love women but they’re not capable of respecting women. For our society for girls to leave the house and talk to boys, it’s unacceptable. People gossip and start saying bad things about the girl.”
She said the harassment were so terrible that she can’t walk around her village without wearing a burka. She now spends her time studying and dreams to become a doctor one day.
This is not only Rani’s story, in Bangladesh, the story is same for almost all girls. Harassment, marital rape, threat these are common things in their lives and now the new law only makes their lives more horrible.