It has been one year since the controversial Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 has been enacted. At a recent discussion among rights groups it was revealed that as rules under the Act have not been formulated, there has been a rise in misuse of the law. A vaguely termed “special provision” in the Act has allowed parents and guardians to marry off girls under 18, by citing “special circumstances” that allow them to circumvent the main spirit of the law which is to prevent early marriage.
This is very unfortunate and contradicts Bangladesh's development goals, not to mention robs girls of their childhood and adolescence and puts them at risk of pregnancy related complications, giving birth to under weight babies, among other adverse effects.
Although the law has some stringent stipulations—only birth certificates or school certificates and passport are acceptable as proof of age—parents and guardians are able to marry off their wards by not getting their birth registration done until the time of the marriage. As rights activists have pointed out, if all babies are registered within 45 days of their birth (as stipulated by law) then it would be more difficult for guardians to marry their daughters before the legal age which is 18.
The reality is that girls, whether they like it or not, are married off early by their parents. If they wanted to escape getting married where would they go? Thus unless the rules under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 is properly formulated, leaving no scope at all for underage marriages to take place, through adequate scrutiny and enforcement, the scourge of child marriage will continue unrestrainedly.