By Times Headline Writer
As per section 19 of the proposed act, okayed by the cabinet on November 24, a child marriage would not be considered an offence if it was for the interest of the underage girl. This has to be done in line with the directives of a court, with the consent of the parents, and following due procedure.
Several rights activists responded to the cabinet move immediately, saying the provision might be abused.
Reiterating their demand for the removal of a special provision from the draft Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2016, rights activists yesterday said a rapist would be able to abuse the provision to get away with his crime by marrying any under 18-year-old girl who he raped.
The provision, through which children will be married off, goes against the constitution, laws, sustainable development goals (SDGs) and international covenants, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they said.
They were speaking at a press conference organised by the Samajik Protirodh Committee, a platform of 69 non-government organisations (NGOs), at the Jatiya Press Club demanding elimination of the special provision from the act.
“As lawyers, we see how the women repression prevention act is being misused every day. If the Child Right Restraint Act is passed with the provision, rapists will definitely abuse it,” Advocate Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association, said at yesterday’s press conference.
“Many would take the opportunity to legalise marriages [between rapists and victims] through the court,” she said.
About the abuse of the provision, she said a rape victim would be married with her rapist at first and would be abandoned later on.
Citing her experience, she said many of the children who were raped either were trafficked or ended up at brothels.
Over the years, many government officials, marriage registrars, NGOs and local public representatives have been fighting against child marriage. “What will be their position now? Aren’t we going 100 years back to the time?” Salma added.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), said the rights of children would be belittled if the act is passed with the special provision.
“We’ve to see how much of the human rights of children are violated due to the provision,” she said.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam said the provision would not save the interest of girls rather it would encourage child marriage.
At yesterday’s press conference, the Samajik Protirodh Committee said it would work to raise public opinion against the provision until December 10. Later, it would come up with a greater programme at national level. (with inputs from news agencies)