The government and the parliament have once again proven that they do not value the divergent views. Totally ignoring all speculations, protests and concerns, they have gone ahead to pass the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017, with ‘special provisions’. Two branches of the government (executive and legislative) have shown that they have no qualms in disregarding different views and reasoning. The government has gone ahead to do exactly what various women’s organisations, Unicef, UNFPA, Bangladesh Human Rights Commission and other organisations have been urging them not to do. Even the religious bodies didn’t seem very active in this regard.
The opposition in parliament pointed out that this new law is in conflict with the constitutional provision for the voting age to be 18. Women activist leaders were not surprised. They had already said they would go to court if the government sidestepped their demands. This new law can undoubtedly be challenged in court.
We are extremely concerned at the possible harmful consequences of this law. This has further complicated justice pertaining crimes of women abuse. This potentially deals a blow to the institution of marriage. While using this clause to ‘protect’ girls, even boys have been given a lower marriageable age. Experts fear this clause will increase vulnerability where girls’ health and social security is concerned. Underage mothers and their children both face additional health risks.
This also gives leeway to rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims. In a recent incident, the rapist married the victim and later was accused of murdering her. Forcing a rapist to marry his victim is not a solution. It may even encourage rape and abuse.
This law has dismayed us. It is now to be seen whether taking recourse to the law can resolve the problem.