Juvenile marriage in Bangladesh
Juvenile marriage has long been an issue in many developing countries where poverty, lack of education and strong cultural traditions and religious beliefs exist. It is most prevalent in – however not restricted to South Asia, especially Bangladesh where studies have shown that the practice of juvenile marriage is most common and severe. Although the legal age of marriage for women in Bangladesh is 18, some girls are married off as young as seven years old mainly as a result of poverty which consumes 55% of the population and also because Bangladesh is a patriarchal society where there overall attitude towards women is “galay atkano kata” which is translated to “the spine of a fish stuck in the throat”. In the rural areas of Bangladesh, certain cultural traditions must be preserved as they have been present for centuries and also contribute to juvenile marriage as dowry, which mainly exists in patrilineal societies, determines how much the bride’s parents must pay to the in-laws which varies upon the age of the girl. On the surface, it would seems as though Bangladeshis accept this atrocity and feel quite passive towards it as they are aware that juvenile marriage is being practiced but do not take action against it. Is it because human rights are not universal? Could it be possible that something such as juvenile marriage is overlooked because the vast majority of the population of Bangladesh is not educated and ignorant to such and through intervention, they could benefit from the first world’s input in regards to their sociocultural “issues”?
It is evident that juvenile marriage is very common and equally problematic in South Asia and seems to be an issue which is most present in developing countries for varies reasons which are customized to that particular culture and region. The marriage of a child is illegal in all of the countries in which it takes place and even in spite of actions such as reinforcement of laws opposing to such, juvenile marriage continues, especially in rural, densely populated areas. This is because these societies are anchored by their cultural traditions and beliefs which have been their way of life for centuries, passed down from generation to generation. Bangladesh in particular operates as a patriarchal society and the women, both rural and urban, traditional and modern, are considered the most oppressed in the world because they live in a social system that condones their being granted an inferior status. “After birth, girls are viewed as a burden to the parental house hold, whereas boys are regarded as an asset.” (White, 1992). The minute they are brought into the world, girls are resented and considered “not valuable” as they cannot provide for their natural families financially and they will not carry out the family name, which is very important in Bangladeshi culture. Girls are taught as early as childhood that women should always be under men’s control because the common attitude towards women is that they are weak and vulnerable and they are treated as such. In Bangladeshi society, women are unable to support and protect themselves and male guardianship is necessary to prevent possible rape and this is very important because society places the utmost importance on female sexual purity and this cannot be guaranteed if a woman is without a male guardian as 97% of all rape incidents go unreported and women are subject to brutality and even murder if they do not terminate the pregnancy before it is too late. However, abortions illegal and expensive in Bangladesh and even if a woman can afford to proceed with the termination, they are often malpracticed and result in severe infection, illness and death. Therefore, protection and security is provided (and guaranteed) through marriage and it is also a local belief that younger girls are more obedient and will become devoted to her in-laws’ family more so than her natal family which is logical...
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