Child marriage is never acceptable – no matter the circumstance.

By Nikita Cowlagi, Children's Human Rights Network

A little while ago, I read an article on child marriage and a law that was recently passed in Bangladesh, allowing for child marriage to take place in “special circumstances”. 

While the law maintains the legal age of marriage at 18 for girls and 21 for boys, exceptions can now apparently be made. The law provides no definition of what these “special circumstances” might be, and there is no mention of the child’s consent. 

This law will impact the lives of millions of girls in Bangladesh, and such a provision is completely unacceptable. Let’s be clear: child marriage should not be permitted in any circumstance.

Poverty and child marriage

Every day, due to high levels of poverty, thousands of Bangladeshis struggle to obtain basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. This can lead families to take extreme steps to alleviate poverty, such as marrying off their young daughters to reduce the supposed burden on resources. 

Poverty is one of many reasons child marriage is widespread in Bangladesh – ingrained traditions going back years are also a cause.

A downward trend

Today, human rights are becoming more important across the world. Many countries – including Bangladesh – are trying to bring about positive change. 

There is some hope in that there has been a significant decrease in child marriage from the year 2000, when 65% of girls were married while being below the legal age of 18. Today, it’s around 52% - which is still a shockingly high number, but a step in the right direction for Bangladesh’s girls. 

There is also hope in the fact that the Bangladeshi government has committed (at the 2014 Girl Summit) to putting a complete end to child marriage by 2041. However, with a law allowing child marriage in “special circumstances”, one must ask how the authorities think this will help them achieve the goal of 0% child marriage?

As global citizens, we need to be asking this question of the Bangladeshi government. Allowing child marriage in any circumstance can only hurt more girls, when the law should be working to protect them by ending this practice completely.


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