Published:  04:13 PM, 29 March 2019

The curse of early marriage torments everyone’s conscience

The curse of early marriage torments everyone’s conscience
Though early marriage is a serious violation of child right, Aporna Sen, a daughter of a farmer at Jorarbari village in
Domar upazila under Nilphamari district, fell prey to this social menace. They are three sisters and two brothers.

Faced with severe financial hardship Aporna’s father, who had to run a family of seven members, was looking for an opportunity to get her daughter married off early. One day he got a proposal of his daughter’s marriage through a close relative while Aporna was a student of class IX.

Without thinking that early marriage will simply deny her daughter the basic right to good health, nutrition and education, Aporna was married off. After her marriage, Aporna became mother of a baby girl, afterwards she had
to divorce her husband as he used to torture Aporna for dowry every now and then. At present she is working with a local NGO for her survival and rearing of her child. Like Aporna, many girls under 18 years have to suffer a negative impact of early marriage on their physical growth, health, mental and emotional development and education opportunities. They are being cut off from educational opportunities and chances of personal growth.

Early marriage reinforces a cycle of poverty and perpetuates gender discrimination, illiteracy and malnutrition as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates. Poverty and weak enforcement of laws are significant factors that increase the risk of girl being married off while still a child. Social customs, tradition, family and social pressures and economic condition perpetuate the practice of early marriage. Unfortunate part of the story is that girl child is generally considered to be a burden to be married off as early as possible. Parents see early marriage as a way to secure the girl’s future socially and economically. According to a survey, conducted by Population Science Department of Dhaka University in 2016, the rate of early marriage is high in Rangpur division. Kurigram district has topped table in Rangpur division with 91 percent rate of early marriage. Nilphamari district with 90 percent rate of early marriage followed Kurigram.

The government has already taken massive initiatives to eliminate the early marriage in the division as well as the country. Mobile technology is being used in the Rangpur division to stop early marriage. Last year the government
started a pilot project in Kurigram in this regard. Later, more four districts have been included under the pilot project with the help of non- government organizations (NGOs). Upzila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Joldhaka upazila of the district Rashedul Haque Pradhan said the upazila has been declared as ‘early marriage free upazila’ in 2015. ‘I stopped more than 100 early marriages during the last eight months,’ he said. He said the people of the region have now become more conscious about early marriage as the mobile technology has been introduced. Rangpur Kazi Samity General Secretary said, ‘We are now very happy as the technology is very much useful. After using the apps, we confirm the real age.’

According to a statistic of the project, a total of 53,500 people of Rangpur, Kurigram and Nilphamari districts use the app to confirm real age of girls. Plan International Divisional Manager Abdul Quddus said they are working with the government as a partner. The common people are now more conscious against the early marriage, he added. Around nine thousand registrars, including kazis, imams and priests of four districts in Rangpur division, got training about the mobile app under the project, Quddus said. Former state minister for women and children affairs Meher Afroz Chumki said the government has already made a list of over 85,000 registrars who registered the marriage certificates across the country. They would be provided with training, she said, adding the day of early marriage will be over soon.

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