ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Child Marriage Law and Freedom of Choice in Bangladesh

While the Government of Bangladesh seems to be genuinely concerned about the social challenges caused by the practice of child marriage and the laws governing such a marriage, its approach to the issue seems confused and may ultimately be counterproductive.

The authors are co-investigators in a project on “The Role of Secondary Schooling and Gender Norms in the Long-term Opportunities and Choices of Rural Bangladeshi Women,” funded by the Australian Development Research Award Scheme.

Child marriage is a global problem affecting about 15 million girls every year. The United Nations’ General Assembly Committee of 193 nations passed a resolution in November 2014 asking all member countries to pass and enforce laws banning child marriages (Reuters 2014b). Some member countries responded promptly by adopting new laws to bring an end to child marriage.

However, the Government of Bangladesh is presently contemplating a move that would permit girls to marry at 16 with parental consent and/or approval from courts (Sahos 2015). If the law is passed, it would mark the first occasion that girls are legally permitted to marry below the age of 18 in the Indian subcontinent since the “Child Marriage Restraint Act” came into effect in 1929.

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