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Bangladesh votes for Child Marriage Restraint Act – Girls Not Brides Bangladesh reacts

Girls at a 2009 workshop in Bangladesh on the importance of birth-spacing, ending gender-based violence and reducing early marriage. | Photo Credit: Peter Canton/IPPF

Today (1 March) Girls Not Brides Bangladesh held a press conference in response to the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 passed by the Bangladesh Parliament earlier this week. The new Act contains a provision to allow marriages for girls under 18 in “special cases” or for “the greater good of the adolescent”. The Act does not define what types of “special cases” make child marriage acceptable.

Evidence globally shows that requiring parental and court consent does not protect girls from child marriage. Girls Not Brides Bangladesh expects that it could be widely abused and effectively mean that Bangladesh has no minimum age of marriage.

The Act now awaits presidential approval before it becomes law.

Marriage does not protect adolescent girls. There are much better ways to secure their future. For instance, ensuring girls are able to go to school and supporting them to do so, both legally and practically, is one of the best ways of protecting them. Providing economic opportunities for women and girls is also important so they and their families will thrive.

Girls Not Brides Bangladesh urges the government to define “special cases” in order to prevent the new law from being abused and girls being forced to marry as children. They also urge the government to work with civil society organisations to tackle the root causes of child marriage in Bangladesh. Girls need to have access to medical and healthcare services, as well as quality education, with the provision of child care if necessary, and support from their families and communities.

About the press conference

The press conference was organised by Girls Not Brides Bangladesh in collaboration with Social Action Committee, Child Rights Advocacy and Jaago Foundation. Representatives from many print and electronic media were in attendance, as well as representatives from over 150 organisations.

GNB Bangladesh Partnership press conference - 1 March

Girls Not Brides Bangladesh outlined their plan of action to counter the new Act. They announced:

  • Sending a Memorandum to the President of Bangladesh asking him not to sign the bill
  • Undertaking legal procedures to deal with this issue in the courts
  • Leveraging the upcoming International Women’s Day celebrations (8 March) by youth and civil society, to draw attention to the issue.

Several Girls Not Brides members spoke at the press conference, reiterating their commitment to addressing child marriage in Bangladesh. These include: National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Plan International Bangladesh, Save the Children, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands, Bangladesh Nari Progoti Sangha (BNPS) and BRAC.