28 July 2015, Dhaka. At the seminar on ‘Way forward to stop child marriage’, experts demanded that the minimum age for marriage should be kept18 years. The seminar, organised by BRAC on 28 July 2015, was attended by government representatives, local representatives, Nikah registrars (kazis), religious leaders (Imams), and representatives from human rights organisations, non-government organisations and media.
Sheepa Hafiza, director of BRAC’s gender justice and diversity and migration programmes, presented the keynote paper. The major findings of the keynote paper included opinions and recommendations collected from the workshops held in 19 sub-districts of Bangladesh. A total of 1,294 people participated in these sub-district workshops, including representatives from local government, civil society, NGOs, and religious leaders.
State minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), Meher Afroz Chumki said, “There is no scope for confusion on the minimum age for marriage. It remains 18. Our government is a women-friendly government and will not take any step that will affect women’s overall welfare.”
During the open discussion the religious leaders, local government representatives and speakers suggested using voter ID or birth certificate to confirm the age of girls and boys; stop illegal appointments of sub-kazis, and holding regular discussions to raise awareness on this issue during various social and religious gatherings.
Present as a special guest, Dr Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of CAMPE said, “We have to strengthen the birth registration offices, so that no one can change the original birth date.” She added, “Girl child drop out from school is one of the major reasons for child marriage. It has been observed that a major drop outs happen when stipends are stopped due to less than 80 per cent attendance for girls. Sanitation is a major factor here influencing girls’ attendance. So the government needs to ensure sanitation at schools as well.”
The seminar was chaired by BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa. In his concluding speech he said, “Along with enforcing the law, we have to create a social movement to prevent child marriage. We need to bring a change in our patriarchy-based social psyche”.
Present as guests were chairperson of Jatiyo Mahila Parishad, Ayesha Khanam, former chairperson of Women and Gender Studies Department of Dhaka University, Professor Nazma Chowdhury, DIG of Police, Mili Biswas, country representative of DFID Sarah Cook, and Farzana Rupa from Channel 71.