In two widely syndicated op-eds, Population Council’s Sajeda Amin addresses child marriage in Bangladesh, what works to curb the practice, and the country’s new law allowing special exceptions for child marriages.
Despite tremendous recent progress across many health and development indicators, Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage. In two separate co-authored op-eds, Sajeda Amin criticizes the new policy but cautions that the controversy surrounding the new law is drawing attention away from more important child marriage prevention strategies and efforts.
“Conservative values that oppose giving adolescent girls and young women full control over their life choices are pervasive, because family ‘honor,’ for them, is closely tied to the perceived ‘purity’ of their daughters and brides. An unmarried adolescent girl’s reputation must be carefully protected, because its loss could damage her family’s social standing considerably. The government has often alluded to this line of reasoning to justify proposed reforms to the child marriage law. The ‘special cases’ clause in CMRA 2017 [Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017] could be an attempt to pre-empt ‘patriarchal resistance’ or a backlash from religious extremists.
But the social cost of allowing exceptions may be too high. Bangladesh’s success in empowering girls and ending child marriage will hinge on strengthening the rule of law by closing existing loopholes. Crucially, such actions must be accompanied by sustained social campaigns and targeted educational programs that convince the public to support the goal, while empowering girls themselves.”