Plan International and Save the Children on behalf of Child Rights Advocacy Coalition reinforce calls to keep the minimum marriageable age at 18 for girls

Monday 22 September 2014

18 September, 2014 Dhaka: Plan International Bangladesh and Save the Children on behalf of the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh[1] congratulate the government for approving the draft Child Marriage Prevention Bill 2014 in principle.  It is in keeping with the Bangladesh government’s strong commitment to human and child rights.

The provisions in the draft act for raising punishment for those who perform or facilitate child marriage up to two years of jail and a penalty of Taka 50,000 is commendable. We believe that stringent punishment will act as a deterrent and reinforce the efforts to prevent child marriage in Bangladesh. We agree that the proposed law, once enacted and enforced, will considerably strengthen the fight against child marriage.

However, we strongly urge the government to retain the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 years. This is in fulfilment of its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and relevant national legislations that is National Child Policy 2011, Children Act 2014.  We are apprehensive that any attempts to lower the age of marriage for girls would be untenable in the context of international conventions and national laws related to children’s rights and protection.

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. The 2013 National study conducted by Plan International in collaboration with ICDDRB indicates that two of every three women in Bangladesh get married before the legally permissible age of 18. Child marriage results in substantially increased risk to the health of the mother, and of her child, and negatively affects the child’s cognitive and physical development. It almost invariably leads to a girl discontinuing her education. This, together with the health impacts on the mother and child, leads to a reduced family income. Child marriage is therefore not just a denial of the rights of the child, but a social and economic burden that Bangladesh cannot afford to shoulder if it is to achieve Vision 2021.

Plan International, Save the Children and the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition believe that strengthening penalties for conducting and facilitating  marriage  involving children, whilst important, is only part of the solution. It is also critical to increase public knowledge about the health, education and social impacts of child marriage, to eliminate the practice of requiring the family of the bride to pay highly expensive dowries, especially where the dowry increases with the age of the bride, and to ensure that Kazis demand valid proof of age before officiating at a marriage ceremony. Our organisations have considerable experience working at local level to prevent child marriage, and would be happy to work in partnership with the government to achieve the objective of eliminating the scourge of child marriage from Bangladesh.

1Actionaid Bangladesh, Ain O Shalish Kendra, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, Child Rights Governance Assembly, EDUCO, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, Plan International Bangladesh, Save the Children, Terre das Home Netherland – TDH, World Vision