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42% girls married off before 18 in 2023: BBS

Staff Correspondent
19 Apr 2024 21:28:08 | Update: 19 Apr 2024 21:28:08
42% girls married off before 18 in 2023: BBS

Social awareness and legislation are failing to prevent girl child marriage in the country as around 42 per cent of girls were married off before 18 years of age in 2023 and the trend is more prevalent in villages.

At the same time, more than 8 per cent of girls under the age of 15 were married last year, according to Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics 2023 conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

Experts have opined that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the financial capacity of many families — mostly in villages — as income sources have shrunk. As a result, many boys have left their schools and colleges to join income-generating works for their families. The situation was a bit different for girls as many of them were married off after they discontinued education.

Last year, 8.2 per cent of girls were married off under the age of 15, which was 6.5 per cent in 2022, according to the BBS survey.

The survey was conducted on more than 3,08,000 households across the country and on married women who are now between 20 and 24.

According to the survey’s trend analysis, the rate of marrying off children under 15 years of age in the previous three years was 4.7 per cent, 4.9 per cent and 6.2 per cent, respectively. After 2021, in two consecutive years, the tendency has increased.

Analysis of the situation in the cities shows that the child marriage rate of girls under the age of 15 was 6.8 per cent in 2023, which was 5.3 per cent in 2022. In 2021 and 2020, this rate was 4.6 per cent.

When it comes to villages, analysis of the situation shows that the marriage rate of girls of the same age group was 8.8 per cent in 2023, which was 6.9 per cent in 2022. This rate was stable at 5.2 per cent in 2021 and 2020.

On the other hand, 41.6 per cent of girls under the age of 18 were married off last year, which was 40.9 per cent in 2022. In 2021 and 2020, the marriage rate of girls in this age group was comparatively low — 32.4 per cent and 31.3 per cent, respectively.

Talking to The Business Post, prominent educationist and former caretaker government adviser Rasheda K Chowdhury said that a good number of female students drop out of school due to child marriages. “Under the current economic situation, guardians in villages are struggling to cope with the increasing household expenses. They feel that instead of continuing their studies, marrying off daughters will cut an amount from the expense.”

Those who have already gotten married cannot be brought back to formal education. “The government should focus on ensuring their maternal health as many have given birth to children or going to be mothers,” she said.

There are laws to prevent child marriage in the country. According to the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017, the minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years. Marriage before this age is considered a violation of fundamental human rights as many girls become mothers at an immature age due to child marriage. As this creates health risks for them, the opportunity to join the workplace also decreases due to the interruption of their educational lives.

Experts have said that the impact of the social and financial instability created by Covid is still lingering. The number of child marriages rose due to the impact and that shock is not over yet.

They said that there are many educated unemployed people in the society now. When a parent sees this reality, they no longer dare to hope that their daughters will get educated and find quality employment opportunities. That is why they choose marriage over education.

However, another survey conducted by the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT) in 2022 said that 51 per cent of girls get married off before they turn 18.

Alamgir Hossain, project director of the Sample Vital Registration System in Digital Platform Project of BBS, said that under the survey, they collected information about child marriage but did not find out the reasons.

“However, during field-level data collection, some of the reasons we came to know are lack of social security, poverty and lack of awareness,” he said.

The data collectors also found incidents where parents lied about the girls’ age to marry them off. In some cases, they married the children off silently to avoid the expense of the wedding ceremony.