Child Marriage Restraint Act is no improvement

It appears that sometimes the incumbent government in Bangladesh gets seized by irrational as well as unjustified and adamant frame of mind to ram through initiatives considered expertly as yielding more adverse outcomes than truly beneficial ones. The new Child Marriage Restraint Act is a case in point. It was adopted by our parliament on February 27 last designed to restrain child marriage in name only for its adoption would mark no improvement on the state of the law related to the issue.
The alien British adopted the Child Marriage Restraint Act in 1929 when Bangladesh was part of the British Raj. The aliens are despised for their colonial exploitation of Bengal but at least in some social spheres they deserve to be credited for their reformatory zeal leading to social awakening and establishment of social justice. When little boys and girls used to be married off in hordes before the adoption of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, the introduction of the new legal instrument certainly played a part in stopping the deplorable and harmful social custom.
Fast forward to 88 years later or 2017. With the imperialist British ogre gone we have adopted a new and supposedly reconstructed form of the Act in light of social exigencies or needs. But in what ways one fails to see. The British introduced Act kept the minimum marriage age of girls at 18 years and for men at 21 years. The bill that was passed in our JatiyaSangshad(national parliament) in February retained the minimum age the same as in the 1929 legislation at 18 years and 21 years respectively. So, in what ways it marks progress over the British made law ? We see none. Worse still, the latest version of the law related to child marriage now provides for marriage even below the minimum marriage age provided parents agree and the courts approve of the parental requests. In our social situation, there is every likelihood that many parents would be only too glad to be able to utilize the gap or exceptions created in the law to get the weddings of their underage children done.
Law making through parliaments should be a forward moving process. The law makers of the present time should have the vision and abilities to interpret the needs of society in their time and contribute their best to making progressively more and more useful laws in society’s interest or to upgrade them with the same objective. In the case of this newest law on child marriage, we do not see any such progressive motion but a retarding one and this is the point of great regret.
Law making is serious activity. The law makers are expected to ensure that socially and otherwise desirable outcomes would be achieved from their legislation. They are also expected to show due deference to well articulated and sensible articulations, suggestions or objections from different quarters before they take a decision on the final form of the law. In the case of the latest version of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, all recommendations from civil society, rights groups, think tanks, NGOs and population experts, were most insensitively rejected.
The law in its present form will not rein in untamed population growth because it will keep open the path for underage but highly fertile couples to breed recklessly in this already highly overpopulated country with all the attendant ruinous socio-economic consequences thereof.


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