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Protection of Girl Child Rights : A Crying Need

There are over 57 million children in Bangladesh and about half of them are girls. Child marriage among girls is most common in Bangladesh. Child marriage has been illegal in Bangladesh since 1929, and the minimum age of marriage has been set at 18 for women and 21 for men since the 1980s. In spite of this, child marriage remains a widespread practice in Bangladesh and Bangladesh has the fourth-highest rate in the world in terms of child marriage before age 18.

According to a UNICEF study, about 65 percent of girls in Bangladesh marry before age 18 and about 29 percent of girls marry before age 15 and also 2 percent of girls marry before age 11. Although we have many laws but lack of birth registration and lack of awareness of the parents about the bad effects of early marriage makes enforcement of those laws difficult. Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights and often following from and leading to further human rights violations.

Child marriage is a form of sexual abuse that separates girls from family and friends, isolates them socially, restricts education and leaves them vulnerable to violence from husbands and in-laws. Child brides face health risks and even death related to premature forced sex often with a significantly older husband and early pregnancies. The consequences of child marriage are severe and long-lasting, affecting girls’ education, health, and physical and emotional well-being because child girls are not physically mature enough to give birth, places both mothers and their babies at risk.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 25 and 26), Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 2, 6, 24, 27, 28, 32, and 34), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Articles 2, 5, 10,12 and 16), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 10, 23, and 24), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 10, 11, 12, and 13), Convention Against Discrimination in Education (Articles 3 and 4),  ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 38) (Articles 1, 2, and 3), Beijing Declaration (paras. 9 and 23), Beijing Platform for Action (paras. 80, 81, 175, and 230) specially protect the Girl Child and Women rights.

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. In recognition of the importance of investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights, both today and in the future, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2015 is: The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030. This year, as the international community assesses progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since their implementation in 2000 and launches the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for implementation by 2030, girls born at the turn of the millennium have reached adolescence, and the generation of girls born this year will be adolescents in 2030.

Girl Child today- is mother of a nation tomorrow. They will carry the future generation of a state. So, states have the ultimate responsibility for stopping child marriage. Bangladesh as a party to those above Conventions also have a due diligence obligation to prevent child marriage. Recently Nepal’s new adopted Constitution ensures the specifically Right of women under article 38 and ensures Right of children under article Article 39(5) mandating that- “No child shall be subjected to child marriage, illegal trafficking, kidnapping, or being held hostage.” But Bangladesh Constitution has no specific provision for protecting the child rights unlike Nepal’s Constitution though we have indirect provision article 28(4).

Question is that if Nepal can do this why not Bangladesh? Our history of democracy is longer than Nepal. So it is high time to promoting and protects child girl’s rights by Constitutional way. Bangladesh government has Vision 2021 but development will not be sustainable when adolescent girls live with the fear and the reality of violence. If we can change her life, we can change the Bangladesh.

A. Z. M. Arman Habib

A. Z. M. Arman Habib

A. Z. M. Arman Habib is pursuing LL.M. (International Law) at Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University, New Delhi.
A. Z. M. Arman Habib

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