The commendable initiative of a group of girls combating early marriage in Trishal, as reported by The Daily Star on Thursday, shows how social problems like child marriage are best handled: through greater community involvement. The girls are working to raise awareness of the consequences of early marriage among local people and girls/women themselves so that they can resist any such attempts on their own, without recourse to administrative measures and other such interventions. In the last two months alone, encouraged by the local UNO and community leaders, they prevented 10 early marriages.
The fight against early marriage in Bangladesh is not an easy one, given the complex socioeconomic reality, lack of awareness, and loopholes in child marriage laws which allow for exceptions in “special” cases. The country has the highest rate of early marriage under the age of 15, yet its policy responses and administrative actions to stop the practice have been quite inadequate. There is a sense that the issue is not being dealt with enough urgency. But the initiatives taken by the girls in Trishal, and others in various other districts in the country, show that the fight against early marriage is not a losing battle and that there have been encouraging gains at the community level despite the dispiriting national figure.
That said, there is no alternative to a coordinated effort for a better outcome. The fight against child marriage will be a lot easier if the community initiatives are backed by sustained administrative support and legal intervention, especially in places that have proved to be resistant to such attempts.