East West University arranged a seminar titled “Child Marriage in Bangladesh: Current Situation and Potential Remedies” on September 3 at their own campus in Aftabnagar, Dhaka. The keynote presenters of the seminar were Dr Niaz Asadullah, Professor, University of Malaya, Malaysia and Dr Zaki Wahhaj, Associate Professor University of Kent, UK.
In 2014, they completed the “Women's Life Choices and Attitudes Survey” (WiLCAS) that interviewed over 6,000 women aged between 20 and 39 years living across 64 districts of Bangladesh which enabled them to provide a unique perspective to the debate. About 83% of the married women had their marriages arranged by their parents or other relatives; 24% were married off by the age of 15, and 77% by the age of 18 in their survey. So, the researchers recommended to improve the capacity of adolescent girls to exercise their own choice in marriage rather than circumvent it.
In addition, they also opposed the present bill about child marriage law where the government tries to justify that the legal minimum age of marriage in most developed countries is below 18 years. According to the researchers, developed countries have functional courts, transparent birth and marriage registration system, life skills training at schools, a culture of dialogue at home and child rights protection agencies at the community level further provide checks and balances to ensure that the legal right to marry young is not abused. These pre-conditions and institutions do not exist in Bangladesh.
Dr Mohammed Farashuddin, chairperson, Board of Trustees, East West University and former governor, Bangladesh Bank chaired the seminar while Asaduzzaman Noor MP, Minister of Cultural Affairs was the chief guest and Mahbub Ara Begum Gini MP, Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Women and Children Affairs was the special guest.
Professor Dr M Sekander Hayat Khan, vice chancellor (acting) of East West University delivered the welcome address at the seminar.