10/14/2014, 00.00
BANGLADESH

Proposed law on "child brides" bows to conservative Islam

by Sumon Corraya
The government wants to lower the minimum age for marriage: from 18 to 16 years for women, from 21 to 18 for men. Even today, 80% of girls are married before reaching the adulthood.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The Bangladeshi government is "considering" lowering the minimum age for marriage (16 years for women, 18 for men), to please conservative Islam. In a country where 80% of girls are already married long before they reach adulthood, according to human rights activists and social scientists, this decision would be "dangerous" because it seems to "let go the idea that phenomena such as child brides is acceptable" because "acknowledged" by the state.

The current law sets the minimum age at 18 years for women and 21 for men and has always been considered a tool to change the prevailing mentality. Under shari'a, Islam - which in Bangladesh is the state religion, practiced by 89.9% of the population - a girl can get married as soon as reaches puberty.

The proposed change has caused a sensation among the more "independent" newspapers, particularly because it is being out forward by the government, led by the Awami League : historically this was a secular party, whose founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led the nation to independence from Pakistan (1971). Some newspapers have also conducted a "campaign" against this proposal, bringing the testimonies of students and young people who had defended their classmates when they were in danger of being given too soon in marriage.

The AL could be attempting to "appease" the more "conservative" Islamic component for the population, which - in the last year and a half - the radical Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami has repeatedly appealed to, labeling the government "atheistic" and contrary to the true principles of Islam. This is also why, according to some commentators note, the government recently decided to declare Ramadan a public holiday.

The Catholic activist Rosaline Costa, told AsiaNews that in addition to further victimizing young girls "the reduction of the minimum age for marriage will increase the rate of maternal mortality across the country."

 

 

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