A group of Bangladeshi parliamentarians travelled to four districts in the country to raise awareness about the problems associated with child marriage. The districts—Gaibandha, Naogaon, Satkhira and Sirajganj—have a high incidence of child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). The MPs’ visit was a result of recommendations made by the IPU Advisory Group on Health, following meetings held with organizations and individuals working on this issue in Dhaka on 31 March 2017.
The parliamentarians met with civil society organizations, local government representatives, marriage and birth registrars, local administration and law-enforcing agencies, religious leaders, medical associations, teachers, and students and their families.
Victims of CEFM and their families were often unaware of the negative consequences of child marriage, which makes awareness-raising crucial. To this end, MPs recommended carrying out awareness-raising programmes in slums, involving the media, and including CEFM in school and college curricula. The existing legislation to prevent child marriage had to be enforced: marriages should be registered and require the couple’s consent.
Other recommendations included countering fake birth and marriage registration certificates, and making a birth certificate compulsory when a child is admitted to school. The MPs committed to providing a safe environment for children to grow up and continuing efforts to empower the children so they could transform their communities.
The rate of CEFM in Bangladesh has been reduced over the past decade, thanks to the combined efforts of the government, parliament, local administration, police and civil society. However, it is one of the root causes of the high maternal mortality rate in the country: 2016 figures from the Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Care Survey show that there were 196 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.