Hundreds of teenage girls, guardians and rights activists gathered at the Central Shaheed Minar, Dhaka on 18 January demanding the removal of the special provision from the draft Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016.
The special provision of the proposed Child Marriage Restraint Act, which allows marriageable age for girls before 18, will not only encourage child marriage but also affect children's right and women empowerment, said eminent rights activists at the mass gathering.
The current legal minimum age of marriage in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men but the ‘special provision’ doesn’t specify a minimum age of marriage. As per section 19 of the proposed act, a child marriage would not be considered an offence if it was for the interest of the underage girl. This has to be done in line with the directives of a court, with the consent of the parents, and following due procedure.
‘It is very disappointing for us to gather for such a little demand after crossing many milestones on the way to achieve women empowerment; there should not be any loophole in the child marriage restraint act’- said Rasheda K Chowdhury, former advisor to the caretaker government and Executive Director of CAMPE while addressing the gathering.
Ayesha Khanam, President of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said “If the act remains, then it has to be said that we have failed to understand the despicable picture of present day Bangladesh. The logic offered in support of their arguments is lame”.
‘We want to pursue our dream by continuing education, therefore, we don’t want to get married so early’- said a young participant who travelled from Haor area to join the demonstration.
Eti Robi Das, a mother of a 13-year-old girl in who came to protest against the 'special provision' said, “Like me no guardians want to marry their daughters off before 18; so, the special provision is not needed.”
Laila Khondkar, Director of Child Protection, Save the Children in Bangladesh said, "We are seriously concerned about the ‘special provision’ of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016. This provision might be misused, which will ultimately lead to an increase in child marriage in Bangladesh. Moreover, the special provision conflicts with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Children Act 2013 of Bangladesh. If enacted, the law will be a serious setback for empowerment of girls and women, and have long-term negative consequences on the overall progress of the nation.”
Save the Children, along with other rights based organizations, arranged the mass gathering under the banner of 'Samajik Pratirodh Committee'.
There were similar events held in 24 districts of the country to rescind the 'special provision' on the same day.
Earlier, Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh (CRAC) submitted a memorandum to the Standing Committee on Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, in this regard.