In seven months following the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, an average of 65 child marriages took place every day and 5,089 of the girls got pregnant unexpectedly, finds a survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).
According to the rights organisation, 13,886 child marriages took place in 84 upazilas of 21 districts of the country from April to October last year.
The information has come up in a survey report titled "Rapid Analysis of Child Marriage Situation During Covid-19 in Bangladesh".
The survey was co-sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) and Plan International.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Eiko Narita, deputy representative at the UNFPA Bangladesh, said they have no study on this region determining the number of daily child marriages in normal time, but she said they think the incidents of child marriages have increased during the pandemic.
Speakers said the survey was conducted to increase the knowledge of child marriage among adolescent girls and their parents, what were the causes of child marriage, how effective was the work of the service providers to stop child marriage during the pandemic and what could be the policy-making measures against such incidents.
The study unveiled in a webinar said 50.6% of the girls have been married between 16 and 17, 48.7% between 13 and 15 and 1.7% between 10 and 12.
The highest number of 1,512 child marriages took place in Barguna; 1,272 in Kurigram, 1,222 in Nilphamari, 1041 in Laxmipur, and 884 in Kushtia.
According to the study, 78% of those who have taken the initiative of child marriage are parents. However, 96% of the respondents think that child marriage should be stopped.
All survey participants acknowledged that government offices, local non-government organisations, police, and helplines were effective enough.
In many cases, girls themselves have prevented child marriage. Usually, child marriage takes place because of poverty, lack of security, school closure, and low dowry, mentioned in the report.
The study's recommendations include increasing the number of scholarships for girls from poor families, raising awareness by the media, and involving religious leaders in preventing child marriages.
According to the survey, 37% said they have seen at least one child marriage in their neighbourhood during the coronavirus period.
Eighty-eight percent people in Barguna, 63% in Laxmipur, and 58% in Khulna and Nilphamari said they have witnessed at least one child marriage so far.
MJF affiliated organisations have collected data of the study through telephone and face-to-face interviews.
Presided over by Shaheen Anam, executive director of the MJF, Maleka Banu, general secretary of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, attended the webinar as a special guest
Orla Murphy, country director at Plan International, delivered the welcoming remarks, while Eiko Narita, deputy representative at UNFPA Bangladesh, and Veera Mendonca, the Unicef deputy representative in Bangladesh, spoke on the findings.
Coordinator Arpita Das and Senior Manager Giasuddin Ahmed of the MJF highlighted the content of the survey at the virtual seminar.
According to a 2018 survey by Unicef, Bangladesh has the highest 59% of child marriages among South Asian countries.
Bangladesh is among the top 10 countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world.
However, world leaders, including Bangladesh, pledged to eradicate child marriage by 2030 under the Sustainable Development Goals.