Society will roll back 100 years if the proposed Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 keeps the provision of allowing marriage of girls under 18 years under special circumstances, said rights activist Khushi Kabir yesterday.
The intention to marry a child is a sign of mental sickness, she told a discussion ActionAid Bangladesh organised as part of a two-day programme on “Breaking Barriers, Transforming Young Lives” at a hotel in the capital.
“We cannot bring equality without considering men and women as human beings,” she said, adding that the provision might seem alright to the naked eye but was unacceptable.
Gender-based disparity begins at family level and is deep-rooted in society and a female child needs nourishment for growth but giving birth leads to extra physical burden and a lack of nutrition, she said.
Getting a girl married before she gains maturity forces her to become a woman and deal with a lot of responsibilities and puts immense pressure on her mind, said Khushi.
Terming dowry a conventional problem, she said some families still took girls as a burden. She emphasised working with youths and schoolchildren to change the mindset towards women.
The special provision indicates that the nation's achievements throughout the years were about to be lost, said ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir, adding that Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved if child marriages cannot be stopped.
She also termed the practice of making rape victims marry the perpetrators “a capital punishment for the victim”.
One Sabina Yasmin of Magura said she had a divorce for being married off to an honours student while in class six. She said an organisation she was working for under an ActionAid Bangladesh stopped 25 child marriages this year in two Magura unions.
The discussion was organised for youth organisations with the participation of non-government organisations and donors aiming to address social issues and for building capacity.
Towfiqul Islam Khan, a research fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, also spoke.