Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday came down hard on those who are opposing the incorporation of a special provision into the draft Child Marriage Prevention Act, 2016 and said there is nothing to worry about the new law.
The law is being enacted taking the reality of our socio-economic issues and problems of families in rural areas into consideration, she told parliament while replying to a lawmaker's query.
Pointing to some non-governmental organisation (NGO) people and other individuals who are against the special provision of allowing marriages of girls under 18 in “special cases”, the PM said, “They just stay in Dhaka and don't have any idea about the reality of society in rural areas.
"They are far away from reality. They never stayed in village and don't have any idea about the social system [there]. You will not know about the social system if you don't go and stay in village for a day or two.”
Many western countries allow marriage of girls at 14 and 16. Unexpected marriage of teenage girls is not a problem there as their societies do not show any discrimination in such cases, she said.
Supporting the draft law, Hasina, also the leader of the House, said, "A law can never be rigid, there must be an alternative in special cases particularly in case of unexpected pregnancy of any girl under 18. Otherwise, it might be disastrous for the society.”
She said the unexpected pregnancy of a girl aged 12 or 13 would not be a problem if there was any law in the country that supports abortion.
“What would be the future of that girl and her illegal baby if she somehow cannot remove the unexpected child through abortion? The society will not accept them. The baby will not be able to get admitted to any educational institution. Nobody will give him or her any job.”
Those who are opposing the special provision are not considering this reality, she said.
“Their responsibility is very limited. They are involved in NGOs to make some money. But we have the responsibility as long as we are in power.
“They don't have any idea about the problems a family with grown up girl has.”
Hasina said her government has been making relentless efforts to make people aware about child marriage.
So, girls are being encouraged for education and provided with scholarship side by side with creating scope for their job.
Different rights, civil society organisations, women leaders, and Human Rights Watch urged the government to scrap the new draft law that puts girls at greater risk of child marriage in the country.
The current law permits marriage after the age of 18 for women and 21 for men, with no exceptions.
However, the draft law approved by the cabinet recently says child marriage below 18 will be permitted in “special circumstances”, such “as accidental or unlawful pregnancy.”
The draft does not set any minimum age for such “exceptional” marriages.
PM ON ROHINGYA
On the Rohingya issue, the PM said the current spell of problems ensued in Myanmar when some criminals attacked and killed some of the Myanmar Army and police.
Thousands of women and children who are not part of the attack are suffering due to the criminals activities by some perpetrators.
Hasina said she had already ordered Border Guard Bangladesh and all intelligence agencies to arrest if any criminals of Myanmar who had attacked their army hide in Bangladesh.
“We would hand over the criminals to Myanmar after arresting them. We won't allow anyone to use Bangladesh's soil to destabilise any neighbouring country,” she said.
On the influx of Rohingya refugees, she said, Bangladesh cannot allow “waves of Myanmar citizens” fleeing from their country and sneaking into Bangladesh.
“We are providing shelter, food, medicine to them on humanitarian ground. But cannot allow waves of them by opening doors as we are an independent and sovereign country”.
In a written answer, Hasina also talked about her government's various measures to combat terrorism and militancy, empowerment of women and overseas employment.