Proper implementation of laws can reduce child marriage: Speakers
Despite having law in the country to prevent child marriage, the incidents of early marriage are increasing day by day because many people do not know about the punishment that is provided in this law. Everyone should be informed about the matter as if the law is properly enforced and everyone is aware of the dangers of child marriage, it will decrease surely. And for this, proper publicity is required. Apart from this, there should be a specific allocation in the budget to prevent child marriage.
These views came up in a dialogue titled 'We want social resistance to stop child marriage' organized by The Daily Samakal and Manusher Jonno Foundation on Tuesday.
Conducted by Samakal's Assistant Editor Sheikh Rokon, the discussion was attended by Kashfia Firoz, Head of Influencing, Plan International Bangladesh; Nasima Akter Jolly, Editor of the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Director of The Hunger Project; Tahmina Huq, UNICEF Bangladesh's Program Officer (Gender) and Soma Dutta, Program Manager of Manusher Jonno Foundation.
The discussion was broadcast live on Samakal's Facebook Page and YouTube channel.
In the dialogue, citing the report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019, the noted speakers highlighted that one-third of women between the ages of 15 and 19 in Bangladesh are now married but the rate was 34.3 percent seven years ago in 2012-13. Currently, 15.5 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 got married before the age of 15. In this case, the situation has improved somewhat as in 2012-13, this rate was more than 18 percent. Currently, more than 51 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 got married before the age of 18 whereas the rate was more than 52 percent seven years ago.
Taking part in the dialogue, Kashfia Firoz said she wants to see the implementation of the law formulated to prevent child marriage. The action plan that has been taken for the implementation of the law requires a specific allocation in the budget for its implementation. She said that in addition to social resistance to prevent child marriage, there should also be an idea about its legal aspects. Social organizations as well as imams and registrars of marriage should be involved in the anti-child marriage movement. It cannot be considered as just a women's rights issue; rather it must be seen as a social problem. The men of the society must also come forward. It is necessary to find out the reasons for the increase in child marriage by collecting information from the field level. The committees mentioned in the action plan have to be proactive. Adolescents, young people need to be brought to the negotiating table, their views must be taken into account. Kashfia said the campaign should highlight all the positive and negative aspects and the penal provisions of the law need to be focused on.
Nasima Akhter Jolly said some 18 organizations are working together to create a social movement to prevent child marriage. But they will not be able to reach the goal unless the government is with them. It is possible to prevent child marriage only with the joint initiative of government-private and various NGOs. She said the rate of child marriage is higher at the grassroots level. So, grassroots leaders need to be involved in this forum. She said child marriage has increased during Corona period. Although there are various laws to prevent child marriage and violence but those are not enforced. So, these obstacles must be overcome and at the same time, the management committee of the institution, teachers and students should be made aware of the law related to child marriage, including the formation of committees in various educational institutions at the union, upazila and district level. The people in charge of mosques and temples should also be involved in this movement.
She said the law must be enforced. The reality is that the ban on child marriage has not been reached at the union level. What is in the rules, what is in the law - many people do not know as the government has a lack of coordination with local representatives. The roots of child marriage are very deep. The patriarchal mentality of those who are leading the community has not changed. No one has yet been punished for child marriage. When people don't have an example, the importance doesn't increase. As a result, there is not much application of child marriage prevention law.
Tahmina Huq said Bangladesh has adequate laws, rules and action plans to prevent child marriage. There are also government authorities to implement those at district and upazila level but the law is not being enforced. The challenge remains to build effective resistance to stop child marriage. In order to overcome this situation, it is necessary to take coordinated public-private initiatives as well as regular monitoring. She said that Suryakishori or Swarnakishori, which was formed with teenagers, saw the examples of success but continuity is not being maintained due to lack of coordination.
Regarding the Child Marriage Restraint Act, she further said that the provisions of the law include formation of committees at the union, upazila and district level but many union parishads do not have a committee. Many people do not know that a committee has to be formed to prevent child marriage, they do not know about the activities of this committee. Monitoring is very important in this situation. At the same time, every level of government must be women-friendly. She said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is women-friendly. Therefore, she spoke about the implementation of the National Action Plan on the Prevention of Child Marriage between 2018 and 2030. The premier also sent messages to the Deputy Commissioners and Upazila Nirbahi Officers emphasizing this issue.
Soma Dutta said that various organizations are working in the field level to prevent child marriage and we have to listen to their experiences, and then we will get a direction. Describing their activities, she said Manusher Jonno Foundation is working to raise awareness among grassroots people. Parents, teenagers, youth class, local community leaders are playing a role in making them aware in this regard.
She said some sections of the Child Marriage Restraint Act should be amended. For this, work is being done to build public opinion. On the application of the law, she said, it is important to coordinate between those who make the law and those who enforce the law, how they see it, and how the beneficiaries of the law want to use the law for themselves. She said child marriage has increased significantly due to the slowdown in the activities of social organizations during the Corona time. However, the positive news is that teenagers are getting organized. They are able to explain to parents the harmful aspects of child marriage although these initiatives are not being encouraged socially too much. For this, the teachers of the educational institutions have to come forward as well as young people need to be involved in the movement.
Sheikh Rokon, the moderator of the dialogue, said that despite taking the combined efforts of the administration, private development agencies, civic initiatives and social organizations, the society has not yet been completely freed from the curse of child marriage. Seeing the unacceptable news of child marriage, editorials are published under the headline - 'Dark is not gone yet'. Using social unity, we all have to work sincerely on how we can overcome this darkness that has accumulated in our society for centuries.