13,886 child marriages in 7 months during Covid-19 outbreak: MJF
1.7 percent of the girls were aged 10-12 years when they were married off
March 11, 2021, 10:33 PM
by UNB NEWS
Publish- March 11, 2021, 10:33 PM
Update- March 11, 2021, 11:07 PM
Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage among South Asian countries. Representational image
Between April and October last year, at least 13,886 children were married off in 21 districts when Bangladesh was grappling with Coronavirus in its initial stage, according to a survey.
An average of 1.7 child marriages took place a day during this period.
Of the child brides, 5,089 said they had experienced unexpected pregnancy, according to the survey conducted by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).
They findings were unveiled at a webinar titled “Rapid Analysis of Child Marriage situation: Coronavirus period 2020” in association with UNFPA, UNICEF and Plan International on Thursday. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of MJF, presided over the webinar.
Of the child brides, 50.6 percent were aged between 16 and 17 years at the time of their marriage. Another 47.7 percent were between 13 and15 years old.
Shockingly, around 1.7 percent of the girls were aged 10-12 when they were married off.
The findings of the survey were not surprising since Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage among South Asian countries (59 percent), MJF said. It is among the top 10 countries in the world with high underage marriage rates.
The highest number of child marriages (1,512) took place in Barguna during the seven-month period, followed by Kurigram (1,272), Nilphamari (1,222), Laxmipur (1,041) and Kushtia (884).
More than three-fourths of these marriages (78 percent) took place with the consent of the parents.
Ninety-six percent of the survey participants said child marriages should be stopped. A major difference between awareness and practice of child marriage has been observed through this survey.
Around 37 percent respondents in the survey said they have seen at least one child marriage in their vicinity during the coronavirus period.
The survey was conducted to increase awareness among children and parents regarding child marriage, to know the causes of early marriages during the coronavirus period and to find out about the initiatives taken by responsible bodies to prevent it.
Ending child marriage
While the prevalence of child marriage in Bangladesh has dropped from over 90 percent in 1970, it remains very high as 51 percent women who are currently aged 20-24 were married while they were still children, according to a Unicef report published last October.
As a result, the country is home to 38 million child brides who were married before their 18th birthday, including 13 million who married before the age of 15.
The COVID-19 pandemic now threatens to roll back progress on ending child marriage.
As children and families cope with school closures, loss of income and increased pressure in the home, there are heightened risks of child marriage.
Unicef said Bangladesh will need to put in more efforts to bring change to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target to end child marriage by 2030, and the national target to end child marriage by 2041.
Progress must be at least eight times faster than the rate of the past decade to meet the national target, and 17 times faster to meet the SDG target, it said.