Rights activists question whether child marriage act serves children’s best interest

The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 was passed on February 27 with a special provision allowing underage marriage

Human rights activists, on Sunday, have raised questions regarding the recently passed law “Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017” which claims to serve “children’s best interest.”

The activists raised their concern at an event where they shared their analysis on child marriage laws in South Asian countries. The event was organised by the Tripping Point Project of Care Bangladesh at Brac Centre.

Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) Executive Director Salma Ali questioned what precisely the term “best interest of a child” meant. She said: “The definition of this term is not specified, and the parliament could not maintain its standard [by passing this law]. The term contradicts child rights.”

In addition, Bangladesh is the only South Asian country that allows child marriage in an exemption case. The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 was passed on February 27 with a special provision allowing underage marriage.

According to a report by Care, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bhutan do not allow any such exception. Meanwhile, other countries with comparable economic, socio-cultural backgrounds and problems to Bangladesh have also increased the minimum age of marriage, and disallowed any such exemption in recent years.

Dhaka University Professor of Law Department Dr Shahnaz Huda said countries may risk normalising underage marriage by the application of such laws.

Mizanur Rahman, additional secretary (administration) of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, also said that no law can stop child marriage without a massive social change. Ironically, he added: “I just learned about a child marriage [after coming here] that took place under the special provision which I did not know before.”

The chairman of National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh Kazi Reazul Hoque, right activists from various NGOs, and civil society representatives were present at the event.

Source: serves children’s best interest

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