Spl provision for allowing child marriage made

Parliament on Monday passed the Child Marriage Restraint Bill amid protests from opposition making a special provision for allowing underage marriages under ‘special circumstances.’
Once the bill is transformed into an act with president’s assent, it will replace the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.
The bill stipulates tougher punishment for spouses marrying underage girls and boys, people solemnising child marriages, parents or guardians involved in such weddings.
It, however, made a special provision that said that an underage marriage would constitute no offence if it took place in special situation for the best interest of the underage person with permission from court, consent of the parents following process defined in the rules.
The special provision was made despite protests from different quarters, including local and international rights groups and women organisations, who observed that the special provision would rather encourage child marriage.
The bill was passed by voice votes after rejecting proposals made by Jatiya Party lawmakers Fakhrul Imam, Salim Uddin and Rowshan Ara Mannan for amendment to the bill and dissemination of the bill soliciting public opinion.
They moved the proposals arguing that the special provision would encourage child marriage, increase school dropout among girls and maternal death and cause health risks.
In reply, women and children affairs state minister Meher Afroze Chumki, who piloted the bill, said that government was committed to stop child marriage.
‘We have discussed with national and international organisations, in the cabinet as well as parliamentary standing committee about the bill,’ she said, adding ‘the special provision was needed in order to make the society safer and avoid any untoward incident.’
According to the bill, males under 21 years and females under 18 year are considered minors and ineligible for marriage.
A spouse would be jailed for two years and fined Tk 1 lakh for marrying an underage girl or boy, it said.
The same punishment was stipulated for conducting or directing or registering such a marriage.
The 1929 act had, however, stipulated imprisonment for a month a fine of Tk 1,000 for the same offences.
Birth certificate, National Identity Card, Secondary School Certificate, Junior School Certificate and primary education completion exam certificate or passport would be legal basis for proving age of brides and bridegrooms, the bill said.
The new law will require the government to form a child marriage restraint committee at national, divisional, district, upazila, and union level with government officials, local elected representative, elites and representatives from non-governmental organisations.
Upazila Nirbahi officer, executive magistrate, upazila women affairs officer, social welfare, education and primary education officers, officer-in-charge of police station, local elected representative would stop a child marriage, the bill said.
Local and international rights groups and campaigners have continued their protests against the special provision since the approval of the bill by the cabinet on November 30, 2016.
They argued that the special provision posed grave risks to minors creating vague exceptions to the ban on child marriage.
New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch urged Bangladesh parliamentarians to stand up for girls and reject the bill that pushed them to the greater risk of child marriage.
It said that Bangladesh had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, and in Asia, too. Fifty-two per cent of the girls in Bangladesh marry before they turn 18, and 18 per cent get married before they turn even 15, the rights group said.
The government initiated the enactment after prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Girl Summit in London in July 2014, pledged to take steps to reduce, and ultimately end, child marriage in Bangladesh.
She also pledged to end marriage for girls under 15 years by 2021 and reduce by more than one-third the number of girls married between ages of 15 and 18.

Source: New Age

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