COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH - NOVEMBER 27: Farmina Begum, 16, is seen on the day of her wedding to 18 year old Hashimullah, in a Bangladesh refugee camp November 27, 2017 in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Farmina and her family fled on August 25th after the military attacked their village of Kullung. The military came to their village and burned houses and shot people. They hid in the hills for 8 days and spent 5 days walking to the Bangladesh border. Hashimullah and Farmina met at the water pump in the Bangladesh refugee camp near their home and he proposed to her father and he agreed to the marriage. Farmina's mother says "When we got his proposal we agreed because we don't enough food to feed her. If she got married, she would then be her husband's responsibility. She's getting older and and older girls shouldn't be single." Early marriage is a common cultural practice within the Rohingya Muslim communities in Myanmar with child marriages being extremely common among the ethnic minority group. As over 620,000 Rohingya have fled their homes into neighboring Bangladesh since late August, food rations have reportedly been a major factor in the decision for families to marry off their children in the camps while UN officials warned that Rohingya children, especially those who were unaccompanied, are at great risk of being trafficked or forced into marriages. An investigation by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) recently uncovered documented accounts of Rohingya girls as young as 11 getting married and families at refugee camps in Cox's Bazar are forcing their girls to marry early to reduce the number of mouths to feed and secure more food for themselves. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

UN to Bangladesh: do more to end child marriage

Bangladesh must do more to tackle child marriage if it is to meet its own goal of eliminating the crime by 2041, according to a United Nations report released on Wednesday (7).



“This human rights violation…(is)robbing children of their childhoods,” said Veera Mendonca, a spokeswoman for the UN’s children agency.

“We must invest now to secure girls’ rights to life and education, and reduce their exposure to violence and exploitation,” she said during the launch of the report.

Bangladesh has 38 million girls who wed before they were 18, according to the UN, equivalent to almost half the nation’s female population.



While the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh has dropped to 51 per cent from more than 90 per cent in 1970, the country still has the highest rate of underage marriage in South Asia and ranks among the 10 worst offenders in the world.

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

More than 190 UN member states, including Bangladesh, committed to eliminating child marriage when they adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.



SCHOOLS SHUT

Schools in Bangladesh have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed about 5,400 people in the country. Campaigners say the prolonged closure and widespread economic hardship threaten to worsen the situation.

“As children and families cope with school closures, loss of income and increased pressure in the home, there are heightened risks of child marriage,” said the report.



“Even during normal times married girls are over four times more likely to be out of school than unmarried girls,” it added.

The Bangladesh government, which launched a National Plan of Action in 2018 to eliminate the crime, says the impact of its crackdown on underage marriage will not be felt for years.

Measures taken include the opening of youth clubs, better access to education for girls and campaigns to spread awareness.

“It will take some time to truly see the impact of these policies. It took us a while to start implementing them. I am hopeful of making better progress, ” said Abul Hossain of Bangladesh’s women and children’s ministry.