Joy defends special provision into Child Marriage Law

Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy today defended incorporation of a "special provision" into the draft Child Marriage Prevention Act 2016 allowing wedlock of girls below 18 in special circumstances, saying such provisions were there in the advanced countries like the United States as well.

"Our revision of the law only allows marriage of a girl under 18 with parental and court consent in exceptional circumstances . . . this is exactly the same as the law across the USA," Joy wrote on his Facebook page today.

He added: "If these exceptions are OK in the US, why are they not OK in Bangladesh?"

The comments of Joy, also the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, came as the different quarters have expressed concerns over the draft "Child Marriage Prevention Law 2016" that incorporated a new provision for special marriage.

Citing the example of marriage laws in the United States, Joy said "I wanted to share this summary of marriage laws in all of the 50 states of the United States of America, as published by Cornell Law School, one of the topmost law universities in the world".

Joy wrote almost every single state allows girls under 18 to get married either with court or parental consent. "The minimum age varies, with some states as low as 12 years of age and one state with no minimum age. Court consent is often contingent on pregnancy, etc," he said.

"This goes against the arguments of those who are criticizing our current Child Marriage Prevention Act," he said.

The cabinet on Nov 24 gave its final approval to the draft of "Balya Bibaha Nirodh Ain, 2016" (Child Marriage Prevention Act-2016) suggesting strict punitive actions against marriage between boys and girls who are below 21 and 18 years respectively.

According to the draft, a boy below 21 years of age and a girl below 18 years would be considered under-aged and would be incompetent to be locked in wedding cord and such marriages would be treated as child marriage.

The law, however, incorporated a new provision offering impunity to a under aged girl in her interest if the marriage is held in a special situation with prior permission of a court and consent of the parents exhausting some procedures.

Different rights, civil society organisations and women leaders urged the government to scrap the new provision into the draft law arguing that it would put girls at greater risk of child marriage in the country.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday said there is nothing to be worried about the government's new law on child marriage.

"The law has been framed taking the reality of our society into consideration," she said as the Leader of the House during her question answer session in Parliament.

Sheikh Hasina said some NGOs and individuals, who have little idea about the social reality particularly in rural areas, are raising questions about the provision of allowing marriage of a girl under 18 years in special cases.

"They are far away from reality," she said, adding that many western countries allow marriage of girls at 14 and 16 years.

Sheikh Hasina said a law can never be rigid, there must have an alternative in special cases particularly in case of unexpected pregnancy of any girl under 18.

"Otherwise it might be disastrous for the society," she said.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)