New York, December 3 (NIA): The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the parliament of Bangladesh to stop the proposed law which includes a special provision to legalize marriage for underage girls in certain cases to save the honor of the child and the family.
“The move is a major step backwards on child marriage in Bangladesh,” said HRW’s Women Rights Division Senior Researcher Heather Barr, in a statement released on Friday.
On November 24, the Bangladesh cabinet approved a draft of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 which will consider anyone under 18 years of age to be a child. But if a girl becomes pregnant accidentally or illegally ,she could married off to “protect her honor”.
Heather Barr criticized Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for going back on a promise made in 2014 to end all marriage before the age of 18 by 2041 and finalize a national action plan on how to end child marriage under age 15 by 2021.
“Weakening the law is a setback for the fight against child marriage, and sends a message to parents across the country that the government thinks child marriage is acceptable in at least some situations.
“It is also difficult to know just what is meant by ‘unlawful pregnancy’.”
The HRW researcher said the law could lead to a situation where rape victims are forced to marry rapists.
“The next step is for the draft law to go to the parliament, expected in the coming weeks. The outcry against the draft law in the Bangladesh press and civil society has been fierce. Bangladesh’s parliamentarians now have a crucial chance to stand up for girls, where the Prime Minister has failed to do so,” Barr added.
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, and the highest rate in Asia. Over half (52%) of Bangladeshi girls get married before the age of 18 and almost one-fifth (18%) are married before they turn 15.