Aside from social and global awareness, parents can play the most effective role in preventing child marriage, an issue the country is wrestling with for a long time, said social activists at a seminar on Sunday.
Child marriage threatens the lives, well-being, health and futures of girls. Moreover, girls who marry before 18 are prone to experience sexual abuse and domestic violence, experts said in the seminar organised by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital.
MJF, a national organization that promotes human rights and good governance, claimed that 78% of those who took the initiative of child marriage during the Covid 19 pandemic period were parents or guardians. The family was also involved in most cases of child marriage at other times as well.
The organisation highlighted some recommendations to prevent child marriage.
Teachers should use monitoring tools to find out which girls are at risk of child marriage at the school level. Besides, officials concerned should be made more aware with adequate assistance for preventing child marriage as per the law, the organisation suggested.
MJF also suggested engaging cultural activists and religious leaders in social campaigns about the dangers of child marriage.
Existing laws need to be implemented more aggressively. More coordination is necessary among various stakeholders at sub-district, district and national levels. Plus, research institutes and civil society organizations should also highlight the child marriage situation through regular research, as per the MJF recommendations.
Increasing the service hours of various public helpline numbers of the country was also recommended at the event.
Addressing the seminar as chief guest, Education Minister Dipu Moni said "A girl herself is a child till the age of 18. At such a young age, it is physically and mentally impossible for her to take on the responsibilities of a family. Getting married and giving birth to a child will increase the risk of death."
The initiative taken by the government to eradicate child marriage has been hampered due to the pandemic. However, the government plans to stop marriages of girls under the age of 18 by 2041, the minister said, adding that parents need to step up as laws alone cannot prevent child marriage.
Nasima Begum, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said child marriage violates a child's basic human rights. At present, there are government facilities for various creative training for women. There are big job opportunities for girls in the country and parents should be made aware of that.
She also said the online birth registration of children will make the prevention of child marriage easier.
The other panellists in the seminar included- Taslima Yasmin, associate professor at the Department of Law in the University of Dhaka, Dr Farzana Rahman, associate professor at the Department of Psychology in National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Tahmina Huq, programme officer (Gender) at UNICEF Bangladesh, Sylvia Islam, development adviser at the High Commission of Canada, Bangladesh.
Arpita Das, program coordinator at MJF, read the main article at the seminar titled "Parents Can Stop Child Marriage".