Under a new law called ‘Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017’, passed in Bangladesh this week, parents can now marry off their children who are under 18 years of age under ‘special circumstances’.
The new legislation was approved by a voice vote on Monday
and gives parents the right to get a court order to allow their children under 18 years marry anyone if it is the best interests of the parents under ‘special circumstances’.
According to the new law, there is no minimum age for when these ‘special considerations or circumstances’ can apply, nor any definition of what “best interests” could mean, but human rights groups are concerned the law could lead to rape victims or impregnated minors being married to their sex abusers.
“Many opportunists may try their luck in between the shortcomings of this law,” Nur Khan Liton, a spokesman for the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh, told CNN.
“It (talks) about parents’ consent for the marriage. Where does it speak about the girl’s interest?”
Human Rights Watch has criticized new law, calling it a “devastating step that encourages child marriage.”, given that Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in Asia.
“The focus now must be on containing the damage caused by Bangladesh legalizing child marriage,” said Heather Barr, senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.
“Nothing can change the fact that this is a destructive law. But carefully drafted regulations can mitigate some of the harm to girls.”