Lost childhood and education: Child marriages in Bangladesh
by Sumon Corraya

Poverty and traditional Islamic culture are the main causes. 55% of brides are under 18 years of age; 18% under 15. A new law would allow the wedding in "special circumstances" to save the honor of the girls. Three stories of child marriages.

 


Dhaka (AsiaNews) - "I lost my childhood, I wanted to go to school. I loved studying, but my parents

 received a good proposal and organized the wedding despite my opposition”,  Sumi Akter, 17 year old Muslim girl married off when she was 14 tells AsiaNews. Hers is one of many cases of child marriage, a scourge that afflicts the whole of Bangladesh society.

Poverty and traditional Islamic culture are the main factors driving families to arrange marriage for girls at an early age. The phenomenon cuts across all religious communities, except for Catholics who do not support early marriages.

The practice is especially widespread in the Islamic community. Sumi today is the mother of a two year old, has two sisters and two brothers. She said that her father, a simple worker, "could not carry on maintaining the family. So they made me marry hiding my real age. " She risked her life at birth, due to severe bleeding. She's was care of, but the child was born under-weight and has had several problems. For all these reasons, she says, "I strongly oppose the passage of the law authorizing the marriages before age 18".

The reference is to a law approved last month by the Dhaka authorities. According to the draft of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act - 2016, the juvenile marriages will be permitted only in "special circumstances", such as "accidental or illegal pregnancies", so as "to save the honor of the girl."

According to current provisions, the legal age for marriage is 21 years for males and 18 for females. Several activists complain that the bill would legalize forced marriages to repair for pregnancies that are the result of sexual violence, which is widespread in the country.

Official figures show that Bangladesh is the Asian country with the highest rate of child brides. 52% of brides are under 18 years old and 18% under 15 years old.

The juvenile marriages also affect the Hindu community. Bristy Rani was married at 16 years with a boy of 25. Her parents have chosen marriage as a means to "ensure my safety. When I was in school I was the target of several guys who made me marriage proposals and insulted me. Given the situation, my family members agreed. " According Bristy, poverty and insecurity would push parents to arrange the marriage of their daughters. "Bangladesh is not a safe place for girls - she says - and we cannot move freely. Government and associations must reduce poverty".

In the Catholic community in general there are few incidents of early marriages. Church authorities do not support the marriage of minors. The rare exception is to Probitro Rozario and Pronoti Gomes (fictional names), spouses at age 16. The local Church has allowed their marriage because Pronoti was pregnant. Irrespective of their case, Probitro believes that "juvenile marriages are wrong. The Church has to transmit good values ​​to pupils, teaching Christians not contract marriage in childhood. "

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