Speakers at discussion yesterday said measures like training adolescent girls on life skills at schools and empowering them can reduce the number of child marriages in the country.
They said rural parents tend to marry their daughters off as soon as they reach puberty.
They were speaking at a roundtable on “Situation of child marriage in Bangladesh”, jointly organised by Prothom Alo and UNFPA, held at Pragati Bhaban in Dhaka.
Experts, researchers and social activists from government and non-government organisations took part in the discussion.
Prof Nehal Karim, chairman of sociology department of Dhaka University, said, “Poverty alleviation, fulfilling basic necessities, and raising awareness will save underprivileged girls from child marriage.”
Farida Yasmin, deputy commissioner of Victim Support Centre, said, “We find majority cases filed for rape, abduction and exploitation of young brides to be due to dowry.”
“When we receive information on a child marriage about to happen, we notify police to prevent it. But laws against child marriage do not allow us to arrest the parents who marry their underage daughters off.”
The number of child marriage is higher in many districts, said Ubaidur Rob, country director of the Population Council, adding, “Submission of Primary Education Completion (PEC) certificate should be made compulsory during marriage registration. This will make it difficult to manipulate the age of a girl.”
Humaira Farhanaz, UNFPA's national programme officer for gender, adolescent and youth, said, “Lessons on sexual and reproductive health and women's rights should be emphasised in schools.”
Once an underage girl is married off, she is not allowed to continue school usually, with the belief that she could be influenced by her unmarried peers.
Taslima Yasmin, an assistant professor of law department of Dhaka University, said, “There should be a monitoring cell in magistrate court to assess how many injunction order and penalty charges have been made against child marriage.”