Table of Contents
- Background of Child Marriage in Bangladesh
- Effects of Sexual Violence in Marriage on Bangladeshi Girls
- How Girl’s Education Affects Child Marriage
- Recommendations on Ending Child Marriages
Child marriage is threatening the livelihoods and futures of young girls in Bangladesh. This tradition is most prevalent in rural communities, where a severe lack of gender equality and educational opportunities keep this tradition alive. The protection of these girls depends on lowering sexual violence and increasing accessible education.
Background of Child Marriage in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has the fourth-highest rate of child marriage in the world. With 65% of all girls under the age of 18 being married in 2014, it is clear how abundant this dangerous practice is (Girls Not Brides). The solution to ending child marriage is not simple, and the longstanding tradition comes from a plethora of social issues and cultural norms. The solution to the extraordinarily high amounts of child marriage in Bangladesh would not be to simply ban child marriage itself, but to instead address and solve the issues surrounding and causing this tradition.
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Effects of Sexual Violence in Marriage on Bangladeshi Girls
One of the most pressing issues that Bangladeshi girls must face is the incessant fear of sexual violence and rape. Violence against women is ingrained into Bangladeshi society and plays a huge part in keeping the culture of child marriage alive. According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, rape is the second most common form of violence against Bangladeshi girls. In the first eight months of 2018, 661 accounts of rape were reported, over half of these victims being girls. Rape has become so commonplace that it is seen by many as a part of Bangladeshi culture, making it challenging to oppose. (OHCHR, 2013, p.5)
The common nature of rape plays a huge part in the culture of child marriage. Parents of young girls to try to marry them off as fast as they can, believing it can protect them from rape and sexual violence (World Vision UK, 2013). Girls who have been raped are often seen as undesirable to potential husbands, giving parents another reason to rush girls into marriage (Morrow, 2016, p.8). Not only do Bangladeshi women and girls have to live in constant fear of sexual harassment and rape, but this violence is also forcing them into dangerous, oppressive relationships at very young ages.
How Girl’s Education Affects Child Marriage
The lack of accessible and long-term education and career options for girls in Bangladesh is another key reason why child marriage is so prevalent. Once married, these young girls have little choice as to their own futures. They often start families of their own while still being children themselves. This means they are more likely to be pulled out of school early and become unemployed (BALIKA, 2016). This common trend is due to the centuries of patriarchal attitudes found especially in rural Bangladeshi communities (OHCHR, 2013, p.3)
A girl’s education and the likelihood of her being married are deeply connected. Mostafa Kamal and Che Hassan found in their 2015 study that childhood education was the most important determining factor in whether a girl subjected to child marriage or not (Kamal & Hassan, 2015). Research by the Bangladeshi Association for Life Skills, Income, and Knowledge for Adolescents shows that girls who received education ended up being 31% less likely to end up in a child marriage (BALIKA, 2016). Education also needs to be affordable since, during times of economic instability, girls are more likely to be taken out of school compared to their male siblings (Lemmon & ElHarake).
Recommendations on Ending Child Marriages
The promotion of social norms that prevent sexual harassment will lower the rate at which women and girls are raped and harassed in Bangladesh. This will then reduce the number of parents reverting to child marriage as a way to protect their daughters. This social change should be facilitated by community leaders with knowledge of local customs norms, alongside help from reputable NGOs. Projects such as workshops, PSAs, theater, and community dialogues would be the most effective in sparking change.
The creation of accessible and widespread education opportunities for girls is key to lowering the risk of child marriage. The skills and lessons taught must be applicable to Bangladeshi life and lead to further opportunities later in life. Local teachers should collaborate with foreign NGOs providing this education. Education opportunities can be kept affordable through the continued creation of free, state-funded schools. This will lower the risk of girls from poorer families being pulled from school.