Development activists, population experts and government high officials on Thursday said despite having preventive laws, child marriage could not be stopped in the country for lack of social protection, education and awareness. At a roundtable organised on the eve of the first ever International Day of Girl Child to be celebrated on October 11, they underscored the need for proper use of birth certificates to prevent child marriage.
The United Nations Population Fund and The Daily Star organised the roundtable in the city.
Bangladesh since 2000 celebrated National Girl Child Day on September 30, which has been chosen as one day of the annual Children’s Rights Week.
Ashraf Hossain, director general of the Department of Women Affairs, said, ‘Our target should be more specific for preventing child marriage.’
The discussants said as the girls were not safe on their way to schools and sexually harassed, parents feel safer giving them in marriage instead of letting them continue their studies.
They said child marriage was one of the prime causes of high maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and malnutrition.
‘Though the country has achieved some success in reducing maternal and under-five-child mortality, it is still a great concern for us that the neonatal mortality is almost unchanged,’ AKM Nurun Nabi, professor of population science department at Dhaka University, said.
He said in the marriage certificate the age of the girls was always found to be 18 and boy’s 21 but in reality it was different in most cases.
Nurun Nabi also demanded amendment to the law to prevent child marriage for better implementation of the law.
UNFP representative to Bangladesh Arthur Erken said, ‘Dowry is another reason why parents give in marriage their girl children. Even people take bank lone for arranging marriage of their girl child.’
It is very important to empower the father of girl child so that he can continue her study, he said.
Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star, urged his media colleagues to come forward to make people aware about the issue.
‘I specially request my colleagues of audiovisual media to air more awareness programmes on child marriage,’ he said.
Joint secretary of religious affairs ministry M Helal Uddin and Rokey Kabir, executive director of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha, also spoke.
-With New Age input