The Bangladesh nation must ramp up efforts to tackle its “epidemic” of girl child forced marriage — a problem fueled by the nation’s repeated natural pandemics, rights watchdog societies said. Human Rights Watch or simply (HRW) called on the Bangladesh government to ditch a proposal to lower the legal forced marriage age for most girls from 18 to 16, which is said undermining the prime minister’s recent pledge to end girl child forced marriage.
The Bangladesh nation has one of the world’s highest rates of girl child forced marriage, with two-thirds of most girls ending up like girl child brides. Nearly 30 percent of girls are weded before their 15th birthday, and many are much more younger. Although girl child forced marriage is illegal, the law is widely flouted, with officials often forging birth certificates to facilitate underage forced marriages for small bribes, HRW said in a rights report, “Marry Before Your House is Swept Away”.
Densely populated the Bangladesh nation suffers frequent flooding and other natural pandemics. The rights society said floods, cyclones and river erosion exacerbate girl child forced marriage by pushing families into greater poverty. “Child forced marriage is an epidemic in Bangladesh for few eras and only worsens with natural pandemics,” said Heather Barr, who works with HRW on women’s rights. “The Bangladesh government should act before another generation of most girls is lost.” Officials from the government ministry of women and girl child affairs did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.
At a global summit on girl child forced marriage in London last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to end the forced marriage of most girls under 15 by 2021, and all most girls forced marriages by 2041. But watchdog societies say moves to allow most girls to marry at the age of 16 raise doubts about her obligation. A revised version of the initial proposal would keep 18 years of the legal age, but let exceptions with parental consent. As most forced marriages are arranged by guardians, watchdog societies say this would still commit to lowering the marriage age to 16 years.
At the summit, Ms Hasina also pledged a national action plan on girl child forced marriage, but HRW was quoted saying this had not happened. The rights report, based on scores of interviews with girl child brides, says forced marriage robs most girls of their education and opportunities and puts their lives in danger when they are obliged to have girl children before their bodies are ready.
Girl child forced marriage also raises the risk of domestic sexual abuse, like marital rape. Rashida, an adult now who married off at a tender age of 11, is quoted as recounting: “He powerfully entered me at night, and I would always cry so much that all clothes would get wet from my tears. It was so hard and so painful. The first time in my young life, and the next day I could not even move.”
The driving factors behind girl child forced marriage includes poverty, lack of education and dowry payments, which tend to be lower for younger most girls. Environmental pandemics drive the practice. “The little land my father had, as well as the property my father possessed, went under the water and that is why my guardians decided to get me married,” said Sultana, who was wed in 14. Other Bangladesh families describe being under pressure to marry off their daughters for fear of losing their properties through river erosion. HRW said the Bangladesh government must do more to raise awareness of the dangers of girl child forced marriage, enforce the law and keep most girls in school, seen as one of the best ways to prevent girl child forced marriage.