By Maliha Farrooz
Maliha Farrooz is a senior at Georgetown University.
Bangladesh, a beautiful riverine country, became liberated in 1971 at the cost of three million lives. The nation fought for its independence in order to achieve its dream of ensuring prosperity and peace for each of its citizens.  Since its independence, the nation has advanced in many ways—not least of which is the empowerment of women. For example, women lead Bangladesh’s two biggest political parties, and females constitute about twenty percent of members of parliament. 
However, despite the advancement of women in government, there has been little to no improvement in the lives of the poverty-stricken girls of rural Bangladesh. Rural Bangladeshi girls face various problems such as gender inequality, lack of education, and violent attacks. One of the most troubling issues that they face, however, is early marriage. 
Early marriage, one of the worst violations of a child’s rights imaginable, is a common occurrence in Bangladesh, as the country ranks second globally in the rate of child marriages.  If this isn’t shocking enough, about half of all Bangladeshi girls are married by the age of fifteen, and sixty percent become mothers by the age of nineteen, according to UNICEF.  Early marriage is associated with negative outcomes such as lack of education, serious health consequences like death as a result of early pregnancy, abandonment, and domestic violence from both spouses and in-laws.  In a country where over 76 million of the 150 million residents are female, millions of girls are affected each day. 
Seeing the harsh consequences of child marriage can only make one question the effectiveness of the legal provisions relating to this issue. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, passed while Bangladesh was still under the British Raj, levies fines of one thousand taka (less than thirteen dollars) and imprisonments lasting just one month on those who force girls into marriage too young. It is evident from the existing legal standpoint that he Child Marriage Restraint Act has had no effect on the prevention of early marriage of young girls in Bangladesh.
As a result, it cannot be denied that the existing Child Marriage Restraint Act is not only ancient but also inadequate in protecting victims from this horrifying problem. Thus, this law must be freshly enacted rather than amended by parliament in such a way so that the government can execute it in an effective manner, giving it strong legal standing.
However, the situation in Bangladesh shows that the law alone cannot prevent child marriage because this problem has been an ingrained social custom for centuries in the rural sectors of the nation. Hence, awareness activities in the media, educational institutions, and families are essential. Moreover, technological advancement such as online birth registration must be ensured so that age related certificates are not falsified.  Most importantly, people from all walks of life and the lawmakers of Bangladesh must come forward with a common consensus to ensure that every girl gets the childhood that she deserves.
 Muntasir, Mamun, “Bangladesh Genocide Archive,” The Archive of Liberation War, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Research Institute. Accessed June 27, 2015.
 Begum Ferdousi Sultana, “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: suggested strategies for the 7th five year plan,” Plan International. December 2014, Accessed June 27, 2015.
 “Women and girls in Bangladesh,” UNICEF BANGLADESH, June 2010, Accessed June 26, 2015.
 Ryan Kayla, “Child brides of South Asia,” The Daily Star, March 08, 2015, Accessed June 27, 2015.
 “Preventing child marriage in Bangladesh,” MDG Achievement Fund, Accessed June 27, 2015.
 “Stop plan to lower marriage age for girls: HRW,” Prime News, June 9, 2015, Accessed June 26, 2015.
 “2012 Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh, 32nd Edition,” Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, August 2013, Accessed June 28, 2015.
 Rozario Rock Ronald and Stephan Uttom,“In Bangladesh, child brides face a grim reality,” UCA News, June 29, 2015, Accessed June 29, 2015.
Photo Credit: Mostaque Chowdhury
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