The practice of child marriage reflects deep-rooted norms and unequal status of girls in society as females are often seen as financial burdens. It has decreased in the 30 years, but rather slowly.
Poverty and low literacy are deciding factors, but evidence suggests that child marriage is practiced across all backgrounds and social divides.
Over 50 per cent of Bangladeshi women who are now in their mid-20s were married before they turned 18. Nearly 18 per cent were below 15 years of age.
Parents wield major influence in the marriage of their children in South Asian cultures.
Girls are usually burdened with maintaining their family’s honour. When a girl child reaches puberty, parents worry about protecting her chastity.
It is a major barricade to stopping child marriage. Because parents who decide to marry off girl children feel a real or perceived fear of sexual violence at onset of puberty, according to a recent research.
But many married adolescents experience and accept physical and sexual violence. As many as 33 per cent of adolescent girls believe a husband is justified in hitting his wife.
The perception of girls choosing to begin sexual activity outside of marriage is also seen as a threat to social norms. They are considered ‘stained’ for perceived compromise of ‘purity and honour’.
However, the majority of population in Bangladesh do not believe marrying children is a form of sexual violence. Adolescents who marry are therefore at the risk of early pregnancy and negative health impacts.
Girls become more vulnerable to child marriage and trafficking in the context of natural disasters caused by climate change, to which Bangladesh is highly prone.
Such norms are proven to eventually lead to compromises in terms of the survival development, protection and participation of children, particularly girls.