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Child marriage rates soar in Cox's Bazar in the shadow of pandemic

  • Published at 06:09 pm October 2nd, 2021
child marriage
Representational photo: Reuters

Child marriage eats up around 9% of the women's income and 1% of national income, the study suggested

A recent study on the impact of Covid-19 on child marriage in Cox’s Bazar district has uncovered the rates of child marriage soared throughout the district since March 2021, with the highest increase of 82% in Eidgaon upazila, followed by 75% in Ukhiya upazila.

The study was carried out by the OAST Foundation in 32 union parishads and 3 municipalities across the nine upazilas under the district. 

The organization conducted the study from 4 August to 26 September this year.

Moderated by Executive Director of COAST Foundation Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, the findings were presented by Jahangir Alam, assistant director of COAST Foundation, at a virtual press conference on Saturday.

In his keynote, Jahangir Alam noted that the trend not only increased in each upazila under the district but it was much higher. Apart from Eidgaon and Ukhiya, the rate in Ramu stands at 72%, followed by 66% in Teknaf, 61% in Moheskhali, 54% in Kutubdia, and 51% in Cox’s Bazar sadar. Only in Chokoria (32%) and Pekua (26%), the rate stood below 50%.

In another presentation on the multidimensional impact of child marriage, Md Mujibul Haque Munir, joint director of the same organization, said: "Due to such high rates of child marriage, the birthrate in Bangladesh is still highest in South Asia,”

Child marriage eats up around 9% of the women's income and 1% of national income. Eliminating child marriage could save 11% of our educational budget, he said.

The study took 384 families, who had been involved in at least one child marriage between 2020 to 2021, as the sample. Among the respondents, 63% were girls and the rest 37% are boys.

Asked about the reasons, 63% of respondents indicated the Covid-19 pandemic behind the increase in the rate of child marriage. And some 47% said the closure of schools, which was also due to the pandemic, was the main reason behind the increasing child marriage rates.

Some 26% mentioned the economic crisis triggered by Covid-19 as a reason, and 22% mentioned insecurity resulted from unemployment.

The study also found ‘generational education’ to be a check against child marriage. The child marriage rate was only 5% in families whose heads had completed higher secondary education. The rate jumped to 35% among families whose heads had not completed higher secondary education, and soared beyond 50% to 52% among families with no formal education, even if they could sign their name.

The link to poverty was also established, as the rate of child marriage was by far the highest (64%) in low-income families. It almost exactly halved (32%) in the middle-income families, and dropped to just 4% in the well-off segment.

While commenting on the prevention of child marriage in their community, choosing multiple answers, most respondents said stopping fake birth registration and reopening schools is the key, where some respondents mentioned the proper implementation of the law, and financial support to the families might work to decrease the rate of child marriage.

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