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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 11
March 17, 2007

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Law Opinion
Rights Investigation
Rights Monitor
Human Rights Analysis
Human Rights Advocacy
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Child marriage: Violation of human rights

Maliha Begum was 13 when she was wed. A year later, she fled back to her parents in Rupsha of Khulna district.

Neither widowed nor divorced, Maliha ran away from in-laws who she says mistreated her and pressured her poor and landless father to make good on a promise to pay a dowry an illegal but common practice throughout much of rural Bangladesh.

Grinding poverty has forced the villagers to accept both child marriages and dowries as an unavoidable reality in Bangladesh. Also due to childhood marriage many children are leaving primary school before due time in different districts. Concerned quarter think childhood marriage cannot be stopped if the enactment of birth registration cannot be implemented properly. Also illiterate guardians marrying off their under aged girls thinks that 'Childhood marriage entails low dowry'.

Poor parents feel marrying off their young girls will relieve some of their economic burden. The groom's family demands a dowry to grab some cash that helps ease their poverty," he said. Poverty traps both (families), but the worst victim is the girl, who has no real shelter.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education. Child marriage can also result in bonded labour or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims. Because they cannot abstain from sex or insist on condom use, child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and, increasingly, HIV/AIDS. Parents may consent to child marriages out of economic necessity. Marriage may be seen as a way to provide male guardianship for their daughters, protect them from sexual assault, avoid pregnancy outside marriage, extend their childbearing years or ensure obedience to the husband's household. In Bangladesh , this rate was 65 per cent.

Nearly half of Bangladesh's 140 million people live in poverty, according to official statistics. The government says it's striving to halve that number by 2015, under the UN millennium development goal.

Uneducated young brides are unaware of their rights. Marriage to them means simply shifting homes, said Rozifa Khatun from, 20, who wed at the age of 12 and lived with her husband for three years. To get around the legal ban, dowries are usually negotiated behind the scene. Women can also fall prey to husbands who are well off or wealthy but torture or even kill their wives over dowries or other family disputes, police and women rights groups say. Bangladeshi laws stipulate a maximum penalty of death for the torture and killing of women, but many victims or their families prefer not to lodge a complaint to avoid more trouble.

Government commitment and capacity
The role of government and civil-society institutions is to develop and implement systems to prevent or discourage this practice. Government action is required to review customary and civil law. Because child marriage is closely associated with poverty, government commitment to poverty reduction is likely to lead to a decrease in child marriages.

-- A group of Child Journalist from Shishu Prokash, Children's Express, Rupsha of Khulna district.



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