14 October 2014: A press Conference today in the capital declares that non government development organizations across the country is going to observe International Rural Women’s Day tomorrow, 15th October 2014. National Committee to observe Int’l Rural Women’s Day called for a press conference today at the National Press Club in Dhaka titled “No Marriage under 18 to protect Women’s Health: Stop Legitimizing Child Marriage” where the speakers said, along with Dhaka committee members in 60 districts of the country also organized separate press conferences in their locality to declare their programs to observe the day.
Ferdaus Ara Rumee, Policy Research and Campaign Coordinator of EquityBD, moderates the press conference while Ms Shamima Akhter, Vice President of the National Committee and Executive Director of ASWO Foundation, reads out the keynote paper on behalf of the committee. The other speakers are Executive Member of the committee Nazma Begum from Tangail, Executive Member of the Committee Nahid Sultana from Gazipur and Executive Member of the Committee Asif Iqbal of SPP from Dinajpur.
Shamima Akhter said while reading out position paper of the group, in Bangladesh, especially in the rural area there is a tradition of child marriage in spite of the presence of law where marriage of girls under 18 is prohibited and in spite of all the social campaign. In this situation if the minimum age of girls’ marriage is legitimized to drop to 16 it will deteriorate the situation and ultimately it will increase the rate of maternal mortality. It will be conflicting with the MDG target of reversing the mother’s mortality rate.
Nahid Sultana from Gazipur said in her speech that, to legitimize the child marriage at the age of 16, it is said that girls in our country are naturally achieves reproductive capacity at this lower ages and to stop pregnancy before marriage in these age, girls’ marriage at 16 should be legitimized. We, hereby, strongly oppose this position and demand to term all under 18 as children as it is declared by all the international law and conventions.
Nazma Begum from Tangail said, Now we have the minimum age for the girls to marry is 18 by the law and people in the villages are marrying off their daughters within 16. But if it is made 16 by law, girls of 12-13 will be married off. Nothing will be able to stop this child marriage and that will be very unfortunate for our adolescent girls. It will increase the number of child mothers in the society.
Asif Iqbal from Dinajpur said, we the non government organizations have been observing the day, 15 October as the International Rural Women’s Day since 2000 to promote the rural women who are really neglected and unrecognized for their great contribution to the society. UN declares the official recognition of this day as the International Rural Women’s Day in 2007. So, we demand, government of Bangladesh should start observing the officially from next year to recognize the contribution of rural women.
As the Moderator of the press conference Ferdaus Ara Rumee of EquityBD said, Bangladesh has ratified CEDAW, CRC and other UN conventions where all under 18 is declared as children. So setting the minimum age for girls’ marriage should not go below this level. She appreciated the Prime Minister of Bangladesh said in the Girls Summit in London that by 2041 there will be no marriage under 18 in Bangladesh. She added, we should reform our laws according to that promise.