UP chairman marries, divorces underage girl
A teenage boy attempted to take his own life on Friday when a 60-year-old union Parishad (UP) chairman illegally married a 14-year-old girl who had eloped with the boy the day before.
The incident took place in Kanakdia Union of Baufal upazila.
However, on Saturday evening, a day after keeping the girl in his house, UP chairman Shaheen Hawladar brought a marriage registrar in the house and dissolved the marriage by a divorce from the girl. He then handed the girl over to her father, a day labourer.
Shaheen Hawladar is also the general secretary of Awami League's Kanakdia union unit. He was re-elected chairman in the UP election held on June 21.
Shaheen has a son and a daughter with his first wife. His wife lives in Patuakhali town and their son is married.
On Friday around 9:00am, the UP chairman called parents and guardians along with the girl -- an eighth grader at a local school -- and the boy in a meeting at his UP office to attempt resolution through mediation over complaints made against the boy by the girl's father.
At one stage of the meeting, Shaheen asked everyone but the girl to leave his office, as "he needed to interrogate the girl further". But he later took the girl in his empty house.
Around 9:00pm, Shaheen brought Kazi Abu Sadeq, the marriage registrar of the union, in the house and married the underage girl. A false date of birth (April 11, 2003) of the girl was recorded in the marriage register, mentioning Tk 5 lakh as dowry (Mohrana) to be given to the bride.
But according to the girl's birth certificate and PEC (Primary Education Completion) examination certificate, her date of birth is April 11, 2007.
In the meantime, when the news of the marriage reached the girl's love interest, he tried to kill himself by hanging. The boy was rushed to Baufal Upazila Health Complex around 9:30pm that night. After his condition improved, he was brought home by his family the next day.
His family members said the boy was still crying for the girl, wishing to reunite with her.
His elder brother claimed that before asking everyone to leave the UP office on Friday morning, the UP chairman issued threats on both the parties and took his signature on a blank piece of paper.
Acknowledging the marriage and the divorce, the girl's father refused to make any comment or complaint against the UP chairman.
Kazi Abu Sadeq, the marriage registrar, claimed that he administered the marriage after making sure that the girl was of legal age according to the "birth certificate that was presented" before him.
Asked, UP Chairman Shahin Hawlader said, "The girl's father during the arbitration insisted on not approving a marriage between the boy and his daughter. That's why I called the Kazi and married her.
"I did not influence them or force them. But since she was not in full agreement, I handed her over to her father after she divorced me with the help of the same Kazi on Saturday evening."
When this correspondent reached Baufal Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Zakir Hossain and asked whether the upazila administration has any responsibility in taking action against the child marriage, he said they were aware of the incident in Kanakdia union.
They would first collect necessary documentation of the underage marriage of the UP chairman and write to higher authorities for directives.
Based on investigation and directives from the higher authorities, they would take necessary action, he also said.
Contacted, Baufal Police Station Officer-in-Charge (Investigation) Al Mamun said no one filed any formal complaint in this connection yet and they would take due action soon after receiving a complaint in this regard.