Medical &Health

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

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

The study was carried out by the COAST foundation in 32 Union Parishads and 3 municipalities throughout nine Upazilas in the district. COAST foundation conducted the study from 4 August to 26 September 2021 covering all Upazila of Cox’s Bazar.

The study findings were presented from a virtual press conference on Saturday. Moderated by Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director of COAST Foundation, the findings were presented by Jahangir Alam, Assistant Director of COAST.

In his keynote, Jahangir Alam noted that the trend not only increased in each upazila under the district , but also the high rates of increase. Apart from Eidgaon and Ukhiya, we had Ramu at 72%, Teknaf 66%, Moheskhali 61%, Kutubdia 54%, and Cox’s Bazar Sadar 51%. Only in Chokoria (32%) and Pekua (26%) do they fall 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 birth rate in Bangladesh is highest in South Asia. Child marriage eats up 9% of women’s income and 1% of national income. Eliminating child marriage by 2030 could save 11% of our educational budget, he said.

The study covered 384 families as a sample by which they or their close relatives had been involved in at least one child marriage during 2020 and 2021. Among the respondents, the child marriages they were involved in consisted of girls 63% and boys 37%.

Asked about the reasons why child marriage had increased, 63% of respondents said child marriage rates increased during this COVID period. Some 47% said closure of schools, which was also due to the pandemic, was the main reason for increasing child marriage rates. The third-biggest reason to emerge from the survey with 26% was the economic crisis triggered by Covid-19, and fourth with 22% was to have become unemployed, leading to economic insecurity.

The study also found generational education to be a check against child marriage. So 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% 52% among families with no formal education, even if they could sign their name.

The link to poverty is 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, 65% of respondents said, stopping fake birth registration is the key to prevent child marriage. Some 64% said, the opening of schools is the key, which has already opened, 38% said effective implementation of law and order, and 32% said financial support to the kids’ families vulnerable to child marriage and raising awareness to the community will help reduce child marriage.

Source: United News of Bangladesh