It will be no easy task to eliminate child marriage from a society in which it is so firmly entrenched. There are weaknesses in the relevant laws and administration and families themselves are adverse to the ban. Parents can hardly wait for their daughters to reach adolescence to give them away in marriage.
However, there are glimmers of hope. Young girls have been standing up against child marriage. They have been foiling efforts to marry them off and preventing forced marriages of their friends too. Young Sharmeen Akhter of Rajbari, Jhalkathi, thwarted efforts to marry her off by bringing charges against her own mother. She was awarded nationally and internationally for her bold stand. Her story published in Prothom Alo inspired other girls to take similar firm stands. Sonia Akhter, a class seven madrassa student of Trishal, with the help of her teacher, managed to prevent her forced marriage. When her father arranged her wedding, she called up her teacher who, in turn, informed the upazila nirbahi officer. The officer came to Sonia’s rescue, prevented the marriage and presented her with two dresses.
Then again, seven schoolgirls of Nandail, Mymensingh, formed an organisation ‘Ghasphool’ to resist child marriage. Their movement has won wide response and they have managed to prevent three child marriages so far. Two upazila nirbahi officers of Tangail and Nilphamari have managed to prevent two child marriages in their respective areas.
It is significant that school and madrassa teachers as well as upazila nirbahi officers are coming forward to resist child marriage. This will have a positive impact throughout the country.
These moves against child marriage are relatively few and far between. The contrary picture is much greater. Child marriage is prevalent all over the country and this more often than not escapes the eye of the media. It’s only when a girl commits suicide to avoid such marriages that it makes news. Such a tragic incident took place in Akkelpur, Jaipurhat.
The mindset of the guardians is the main reason behind child marriage. It will be hard to prevent child marriage until and unless the parents understand how harmful it is to the child. Attention must be paid to changing this mindset. The special clause in the law must be abolished. A strong social movement can free society of this curse.