06/17/2021, 15.54
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Pandemic drives up the number of child brides by 13 per cent

by Sumon Corraya

Local NGOs speak out against this terrible practice. Growing poverty is behind the rise in child marriages. A victim, who can no longer go to school, tells her story. Bangladesh is one of the top 10 countries in the world for child marriage.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, child marriages are on the rise in Bangladesh, up by 13 per cent since the start of the health emergency, this according to data presented at a recent virtual seminar organised by NGOs opposed to this terrible practice.

Bangladesh is already one of the top 10 countries in the world in terms of child marriage with 51 per cent of brides aged under 18, this according to a UN report, this despite the fact that, in Bangladesh, the legal age for marriage is 18, in some cases16.

During the seminar a child bride named Arju Akter spoke about her experience. “During the pandemic my father lost his job. He arranged a marriage for me when I was in Grade 7. I tried to refuse, but failed.” Now that she's married and no longer going to school.

For Chandan Gomes, senior operations director at World Vision Bangladesh, “this is painful since  sustainable development goals include ending child marriage”.

According to a survey by this NGO, 95 per cent of families in Bangladesh have faced economic difficulties due to the pandemic, which has increased poverty in the country. “As a result many parents have arranged marriages for their children,” Gomes explained.

Child marriages declined in the past noted Rashed Khan Menon, a member of the Bangladeshi parliament and chairman of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Education; however, this trend has been reversed.

The lawmaker, who plans to bring the issue to the attention of the government, points to various causes, such as “poverty, culture, security” as well as “child labour”.

“Child marriage is a significant violation of children's human rights,” added Shaheen Anam, executive director of the Manusher Jonno Foundation, “depriving them of the possibility of growing up properly.”

“A parent who thinks about marrying a minor child must be stopped by the government. A zero tolerance policy must be adopted,” she said.

Child marriage is not an issue in Bangladesh’s small Catholic community, thanks to strict supervision Church authorities.

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