Speakers, at an event in Bhola's Charfashion upazila, have said stopping child marriage will reduce violence against women.
COAST Trust – with the support of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund – organised an advocacy meeting titled "Child Marriage: Its Reason, Impact and Prevention Measures," on Wednesday, read a press release.
Upazila Women and Children Affairs Officer Ramandra Nath Bishwas said most cases are filed due to violence against women. "Reducing child marriage will reduce the number of such cases," she added.
The meeting shared the findings and recommendations of a study done by COAST Trust to learn why child marriage rates are higher in Bhola than elsewhere in the country, and its impact on life.
Researcher Iqbal Uddin from COAST Trust, a non-governmental organisation, presented the keynote paper at the programme.
"Findings have shown that safety and security are the main reasons behind child marriage in Bhola," he said.
According to the study – with the possibility of selecting multiple answers – 41.6% of respondents cited safety and security as the reason for child marriage while 41% said adolescents misbehave, so, because of family honour, child marriage occurs. Further, 63.6% said love affairs are the main reason for child marriage, 44.9% said a lack of awareness is the reason and 50.9% said poverty is the reason.
The study also found that 37.8% of respondents had no idea that a person under the age of 18 is considered a child. Marriage between the ages of 15 and 17 is considered by many in the area as not child marriage.
At least 21.7% of respondents said Covid-19 has impacted child marriage, 39.5% said it has had no impact, while 38.7% said they do not know if the pandemic has had an impact on child marriage.
It also showed that 54.5% of respondents do not know the government hotline numbers to call to help prevent child marriage.
COAST Trust conducted the study in all the upazilas of the district from 25 October to 31 December, 2020. Among the respondents, 57.1% were female and 42.9% were male.
Charfashion upazilla chairman Md Joynal Abedin said awareness of Kazis and Imams can prevent child marriage. He urged for marriage registration not to be performed by the representatives of a Kazi.
Upazila vice-chairman Aklima Begum Lily said, "Girl victims of child marriage cannot maintain households properly. Therefore, sometimes they become victims of violence. Stopping child marriage, in turn, will reduce the violence against women."
Assistant commissioner (land) Ripon Bishwas said to prevent child marriage, village level courtyard meetings and awareness raising at schools will help a lot.
The meeting made some recommendations, including that the Union Parishad be made more effective and accountable to prevent child marriage, the Union Parishad constitute a committee at the village level to ensure safety and security for girls and the necessary measures be taken to reopen schools on a limited scale during this Covid-19 pandemic.
It also recommended: offering girls an 80% scholarship at the secondary level, a mass campaign for informing the community's people about the hotline numbers, stopping fake birth registrations, and getting commitments from Kazis and religious leaders not to conduct child marriages.
Union Parishad chairmen Abdul Wadud Miah, Md Siraj Uddin, Md Jamal Uddin, Ashraful Alam, Abdus Salam Hawlader, Md Hossain Miah were present, among others, at the meeting.