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Majority for retaining girls’ marriage age at 18 [ Metro ] 04/12/2014
Majority for retaining girls’ marriage age at 18
State minister tells city workshop
It appears that a majority of people are for retaining the girls’ marriageable age at 18, said State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki.

“It seems that I am accountable to everybody for lowering the age of girls for marriage. When a majority of the cabinet take the side of a proposed draft, the other side of the cabinet which opposed the decision can do little against it,” said the state minister. Referring to the social setup of Bangladesh, the junior minister said, “Some social factors worked as a catalyst to take the decision of lowering the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 16. Due to poverty, lack of education, security and lack of knowledge regarding reproductive health parents want to marry off their daughters before 18.”

The state minister made these remarks at a workshop on ‘Media Role to Combat Child and Early Forced Marriage’ organised by Women Journalists Network, Bangladesh (WJNB) at the National Press Club in the capital yesterday.

Argentina Matavel Piccin, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) representative said, “Child marriage is an issue of social norm which is ingrained in the mind of the people of
this country for centuries. The parents of the girls, who marry off their daughters at early age think that they are not doing any harm to their daughters.”

“My plea to the media is to keep on messaging on the issue.

The news regarding child marriage should sustain in the newspapers. If somebody misses out reading the news today, make sure they can read it next month, next six months or next year.”

Country representative of UN women Christine Hunter said, “The concept of gender construction needs a major overhaul. Also, the practice of trivialising violence against women should be stopped.”

Editor of the daily Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta shed light on the importance of social networking sites. He said, “Currently, there are around 66 lakh Facebook users in Bangladesh. There is no way to ignore the voice of social media in this era. These social networking sites can be a great tool for the journalists to create awareness among the mass people regarding child marriage.”

He added, “Child marriage is not just a social issue. It is as much religious and economical issues too. So while taking any steps to combat child marriage we have to look from these perspectives too.”

Farida Yasmin, joint secretary, the National Press Club, Louise Mvono, deputy representative, UNICEF, Christian Tardif, acting High Commissioner of Canada, and Supriti Dhar, editor of the women chapter, also spoke, among others.

Monsura Hossain, senior reporter of the daily Prothom Alo, presented the keynote paper.

On September 15, the cabinet approved the final draft of the Early Marriage Prevention Act 2014, with the provision of a maximum two-year jail sentence and fine of Tk 50,000 for breach of the law. The proposed lowering of the marriage age for girls from 18 to 16 has been strongly opposed by civil society members and a number of social organisations
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