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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bangladesh looks to reverse under-age marriage trend

Bangladesh looks to reverse under-age marriage trend

Bangladesh looks to reverse under-age marriage trend
Bangladeshi Married Miain baby girl
Many Bangladeshi girls are forced into becoming child brides, according to recent reports by a national health research centre and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Nearly 64 pc of Bangladeshi women in their early twenties said they were married off their 18th birthday, results of a survey published in September by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh showed. 

The survey also found while 70 pc of rural marriages in Bangladesh featured underage participants, in urban areas, 54 pc of marriages involved minors. And according to the UNFPA's 2013 "State of the World Population" report, many such child brides become pregnant while still only girls. 

In Bangladesh where one in three girls marries before her 15th birthday, about 40 pc of women between 20 and 24 reported giving birth before age 18, UNFPA said. 

Officials like Laboni Akter are confronting this problem. Akter heads Union Information and Service Centre (UISC), a one-stop government service outlet in Naryanganj, near Dhaka. Last year, she turned away a woman who requested she change her 16-year-old daughter's birth certificate. 

"She had come to the UISC to get a birth certificate which would say the girl's age was 18, instead of her actual age, so that the girl could be married off," Akter told Khabar South Asia. 

Underage marriage health risks 

Public health officials warn marrying so young can harm a girl's growth. 

"Her life cycle tends to stop," Manik Mahmud, who works for the United Nations' Development Programme (UNDP)-funded Access to Information (A2I) at the Prime Minister's Office, said. "It is extremely dangerous for the girl's physical wellbeing," he added, referring to the strain marital relations and childbirth place on the girls' bodies. 

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi government is taking steps to end childhood marriages. 

"The mandatory birth registration process is helping," said K.M. Morshed, assistant country director for the United Nations Development Programme. He noted parents can no longer lie about their daughter's age on documents. 

In addition, public awareness campaigns and moves to toughen Bangladesh's child marriage legislation are helping, Morshed told Khabar. 

Under the law prohibiting minors from entering a marriage contract, perpetrators responsible face only one month in prison or a Tk. 1,000 ($13) fine.