Plan International strongly opposes a special provision in Bangladesh's proposed Child Marriage Restraint Act that would allow girls below the age of 18 to be married under ‘special circumstances’.
Although Plan International welcomes the enactment of the new Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016, given its increased focus on stronger law enforcement and stringent punishment, the organisation believes that no exception should be made to the law that would allow a girl to marry below 18.
The ‘special circumstances’ – referred to in the draft law as ‘accidental’ or ‘illegal’ pregnancy – would justify marriage at any age below 18 to protect a girl’s ‘honour’.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act
“The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 has the potential to protect the rights of millions of Bangladeshi girls, but the special provision that has been proposed as part of the Act opens up the potential for widespread violations of girls’ rights,” explains Acting Country Director Soumya Guha.
Any legislative decision should strengthen their hands and not weaken the resolve
The Cabinet Ministry endorsed a draft of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 on November 24, and it is anticipated that the Bangladeshi Parliament will consider this act – as well as the special provision – in the coming weeks.
“If this provision is included in the final act, it would mark a major step backwards for a country that has made significant strides towards ending child marriage over recent years,” says Guha.
Limiting Girls' Freedom
Plan International believes that child marriage – that is, marriage at any age below 18 – is a gross violation of a girls’ human rights. It limits a girl’s chances of getting an education, earning her own money, as well as her right to live a healthy and happy life, free from violence and exploitation.
“No minimum age for this special provision has been specified, which could lead to the marriage of minor girls, and would hinder the Prime Minister’s promise to eliminate child marriage below 15 years of age by 2021.
“As a partner of the government of Bangladesh, we at Plan International are ready to work with the government so that the country will move forward towards promoting girls’ rights and ending child marriage.
“As we speak, frontline government staff, community workers, young people themselves and the Prime Minister’s Office through the Governance Innovation Unit are making efforts to combat child marriage.
“Any legislative decision should strengthen their hands and not weaken the resolve. It will be very difficult to reach the targets under the Global Goals (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals) – which include achieving gender equality by 2030 – if minor girls attain the legal status of marriage under any circumstances,” says Guha.
Learn more about Plan International's work in Bangladesh.