Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human rights organization, has urged the government of Bangladesh to set 18 as the minimum age for marriage to comply with international prohibitions against child marriage.
The global rights watchdog said recent media reports indicate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet is con-sidering a revision to the law to make 16 the minimum age of marriage for girls.
It said the proposed revisions would reverse stated government aims to reduce child marriage among girls. “Set-ting the age of marriage for girls in Bangladesh at 16 would be a terrible step in the wrong direction,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at the Human Rights Watch.
“The rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is already off the charts. The new law should set the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both women and men and put the best interests of children at the centre of all of its provi-sions.”
It said Bangladesh has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world, second only to Niger, according to Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency.
About 74 percent of Bangladeshi women currently aged 20 to 49 were married or in a union before age 18, de-spite a minimum legal marriage age for women of 18. International law prohibiting gender discrimination re-quires that the age of marriage be the same for both women and men, and evolving international standards set 18 as the minimum age, it added.
“The Bangladeshi government’s promised efforts to end child marriage are encouraging, but these steps need the participation of affected women and activist groups.
“The government should consult closely at every stage with the groups, who have a wealth of knowledge about protecting women and girls, to develop a new law and a national plan of action,” Gerntholtz said.
“Bangladesh should take the opportunity to learn from countries around the world that have successfully tackled child marriage,” Gerntholtz said adding, “The Bangladeshi government should pass a new Child Marriage Re-straint Act that empowers girls to delay marriage, resist unwanted marriage, and be recognized in society for their value as individuals, not just as brides.”
HRW urges not to lower marriage age of girls