Child marriage around the world:

Bangladesh

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
18%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
52%
International Ranking*

5

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.

Photo credit: Ricci Coughlan | DFID

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
18%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
52%
International Ranking*

5

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.

Despite signs of progress, Bangladesh continues to have one of the highest child marriage rates worldwide and the highest rate of marriage involving girls under 15. 52% of girls are married by their 18th birthday, and 18% by the age of 15 [1].

Child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas where 71% of girls are married before the age of 18, compared to 54% in urban areas [2].

Drivers

As well as deeply embedded cultural and religious beliefs, drivers of child marriage include poverty, parents’ desire to secure economic and social security for their daughters, and the perceived need to protect girls from harm, including sexual harassment.

Dowry is also a driving factor with prices often increasing the older a girl gets. This financial pressure often means that girls from poorer families are more likely to be child brides.

Natural disasters also exacerbate child marriage in many regions of Bangladesh. Frequent flooding and river erosion means many families live with the constant threat of insecurity and increased poverty, which impacts decisions about schooling and marriage for girls [3].

Legal age of marriage

The minimum legal age for marriage in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men.

However, the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 includes a loophole where a court can allow child marriage in “special cases”. The act does not explicitly define what those “special cases” might be.

The bill also introduces stricter punishments for those who marry children. A man or a woman who marries a child could face up to two years imprisonment, a Tk100,000 (US$1,200) fine, or both.

Policy developments

There have been many policy proposals on child marriage in recent years.

In September 2014, the Cabinet approved language that would lower the minimum age of marriage from 18 to 16 years for girls, resulting in international outcry. The Act was delayed and amended in 2016.

In February 2017, Parliament adopted the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 despite widespread concerns over a special provision allowing child marriage in “special cases”. The act does not define what those “special cases” might be. There are fears that such a provision will legitimise statutory rape and encourage child marriage. The President signed the bill into law on 11 March 2017.

The Government has also begun developing, under the leadership of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, a National Action Plan to Eliminate Child Marriage 2015-2021. However, progress on adopting and implementing the plan has stalled in the face of backlash against recent regressive legal proposals.

Commitments to end child marriage

  • Bangladesh is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage. The regional action plan is to be implemented in 2015 – 2018.
  • At the Girl Summit in July 2014, Bangladesh committed to taking steps to end child marriage by: 1/ creating a National Plan of Action by the end of 2014, 2/ ending marriages of girls and boys under the age of 15, and 3/ reducing the number of girls marrying between the ages of 15 and 18 by one third by 2021. The government also committed to end all child marriages by 2041.

UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

Bangladesh is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

National Partnership in Bangladesh

Girls Not Brides Bangladesh is the official Girls Not Brides National Partnership in Bangladesh.

View their profile

Sources

[1] UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016

[2] Human Rights Watch, Marry Before Your House is Swept Away, 2015.

[3] Human Rights Watch, Marry Before Your House is Swept Away, 2015.