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10 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Child marriage alarm rings loud

Our Correspondent, Tangail
Child marriage alarm rings loud

There has been an alarming rise in the incidence of child marriages in Tangail and elsewhere in the country.

Sources in the know blame illiteracy, poverty, sexual harassment, and adolescent love affairs for these marriages. These child brides face an abrupt end to their education and are forced into adolescent motherhood. Some fall prey to torture and even murder for dowry, while others commit suicide. Many of the marriages end in divorce.

On the night of January 30, Mousumi Akhter Rakhi, the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Sakhipur, foiled the weddings of Mitu Akhter Mishu, 14, of Kajirampur village and Suborna, 14, of Bonki village.

About a year ago, Rakhi foiled the wedding of 13-year-old Mitu Akhter Khadiza, a Class-VII student and daughter of Montoo Mia of Nayarchala village in Kakrajan union parishad (UP). Mitu was about to be married to Lablu, an expatriate and son of Hurmuz Ali of the same village. Undeterred, the guardians tried to get the marriage registered on the sly. But, no registrar agreed to do so. So, the guardians agreed on paper—without any judicial stamps—that the marriage had been solemnized and will be legally registered once the bride turns 18.

The same thing happened to Marzina, 13, and Sajeda, 10. Marzina’s wedding to Russel, son of Sona Mia of ward no. 6 of Sakhipur municipality, was foiled by the administration. But the ‘marriage’ was ‘solemnised’ in a similar fashion after a month.

The officer-in-charge of Madhupur police station, Safiqul Islam, said he has foiled at least 25 child marriages in the upazila within a year. They even detained two minors—studying in classes V and VI—who had eloped. But the police could not be too strict with the children because they feared they might try to commit suicide if their emotions were hurt.

Shamemara Rimi, the UNO of Dhanbari upazila, foiled the wedding of Sabina Akhter, 10, the daughter of Abdus Satter of Chatutia village. The Class-V student was about to be wedded off to Hasan Ali, 22, son of Abed Ali of Ronorampur village in Jamalpur district. The UNO and executive magistrate awarded a month’s jail term to the bridegroom and freed the bride after her father gave a written undertaking.

On the same night, Mitu, 13, daughter of Forman Ali of Norilla village, was about to be married to Mizanur Rahman, son of Shariful Islam of Amil village in Madhupur upazila. The UNO and the police managed to save her as well. The bridegroom was fined Tk. 1,000.

Shahidullah Kaiser, professor of sociology at Sakhipur Residential Women’s College, said early marriages are causing divorce, suicide, early motherhood, and other social ills.

Sixty-one girls were absent from the Junior School Certificate (JSC), Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC), and technical exams that started on November 1, 2017, in Madhupur upazila of Tangail district. They had been married off by then.

In Sakhipur Upazila, 79 girls were absent from these exams because of the same reason. Secretary of the JSC exam centre, Kholilur Rahman, and his counterpart of the JDC centre, Moulana Habibur Rahman, confirmed the figures.

The president of Mominpur Ideal High School SMC in Dhanbari upazila said he went to school with 14 prizes for the students who had got GPA 5 in the JSC exams. But headmaster Nasir Uddin told him that three of the girls had got married and left.

A minor girl of the same school got married and even had a divorce. This is not an isolated case. Many of the early marriages are ending in divorce. The chairman of Solakuri UP said he had received 30 divorce notices in a month from women. Sixty per cent of them are aged below 20.

According to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS), the secondary school dropout rate for girls in 2017 was 41.52 per cent. Poverty and early marriage were the key factors for the dropout rate.

Most of these girls become adolescent mothers, which affects their health.

A woman told The Independent on the condition of anonymity that she was forced to marry off her daughter because a stalker used to harass the girl on the way to school. The stalker was the son of an influential political leader, she claimed.

This ‘marriage’ was also solemnised in the same style—a settlement with non-judicial stamps.

Many of these girls meet a tragic end. On January 29, 16-year-old Aklima Akhter was hacked to death by her husband. Aklima, daughter of Altaf Hossain of Kachua Baparipara village in Sakhipur upazila, was an SSC examinee for 2018.

Altaf said Aklima was married to Jewel Rana, son of Abdul Latif of Kalia village in the same upazila, four years ago, when Aklima was a Class VII student.

Silpi Dey, the women affairs officer of Ghatail upazila, acknowledged the rise in the number of early marriages. She also confirmed that most of such marriages are solemnised on the sly even if they manage to foil the ‘official’ ones.

Kazi Badol, a marriage registrar of Sakhipur, echoed her.

Romendra Nath Biswas, the UNO of Madhupur, said: “The government and UNICEF are jointly working to stop early marriages. The government has adopted a tough stance to prevent the menace. The UP ward member will be liable if any early marriage is reported from the ward.”



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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