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Country desk
Salma Aktar, a class-five student, was married off at the age of only 12. She became a mother within one year of her marriage with Kamal Mia, a drug addict.
Salma’s miseries intensified further when she had an abortion. With a stigma of not giving birth to a child, Salma at last took shelter to the family of her widowed mother.
Now the 16-year-old is working as a domestic help. In the meantime, she was married off again where she has two children.
Like Salma, Hafsar was married off at the age of 14. She also experienced miscarriage during her first time pregnancy. Her husband Swapan Mia is also a drug addict and sometime sells narcotics for which he suffered jail for a number of times.
Swapan Mia is now in jail in a drug case for two years. In this situation, Hafsar is going through a very difficult time.
While visiting overcrowded Karail slum in the capital, not only Salma or Hafsar, early marriage has brought a curse in the life of many young girls.
According to different sources including the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the government has taken various steps for stopping early marriage.
Though these measures brought good results, there is a trend of giving early marriage by the low and low middle income people.
Especially the picture of the people dwelling in different slums of the capital and poor families is the same. The guardians of these families marry their children off due to the influence of superstition, religious narrowness and bigotry. Many blame the surrounding condition for it.
Hafsar’s mother said: “My husband now in jail, on the other hand our daughter grew up. In the absence of my husband, the stalkers disturb her in various ways. So we married her off.”
She continued: “But this marriage has brought a danger for us.” International organisations said South Asian countries are in the front row in early marriage and Bangladesh is not exception from it. According to the UNICEF, 70 crore girls are given marriage in every year in the world before crossing childhood.
That means these girls enter the family life before reaching 18. Of them, 25 crore girls are being pushed to the family life before crossing 15.
Sociologists said abortions happen frequently due to early marriage and many women are suffering from various diseases due to it. In most of the cases, abortion is carried out in unscientific method and completely unhygienic environment. And malnutrition and pregnancy complications cause deaths of many of the underaged girls.
While talking about the issue, Professor Dr Monirul Islam Khan of the Sociology Department of Dhaka University, said early marriage makes the life of a girl hell before realizing the meaning of marriage or family life. Deprivation and insult at last push many of them towards the path of suicide.

Various researches said that nutrition has a close link with health, and health has a same relation with early marriage. The growth of an embryo of a underaged mother is controlled by her nutrition quality. Giving birth a child under the age of 18 is not safe in any way. It causes death of the infant, even the mother.
Dr Nasneen Aktar who is working on mother and child health development, said complete physical growth of a underaged girl is not made due to becoming a mother. So most of the underaged girl suffer from various physical complexities during pregnancy or while giving birth to children.
According to the UNICEF, one-third young girls aged between 10 and 17 become victims of early marriage.
According to the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, the early marriage rate in Bangladesh in 2009 was 64 percent, while it was 66 percent in 2010 and 64.9 percent in 2011. However, it dropped to 58.6 percent in 2014.
A survey conducted in 2017 by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) said the rate in the last year was 47 percent. According to Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey, the average marriage age of women in the country is 15 years and three months.
When contacted, Kazi Rawshan Aktar, the director general of the Women Affairs Directorate under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, said the rate of early marriage is the highest in slum areas.
Due to poverty, the guardians marry off their girl child before crossing 12/13-year age, she said, adding as a result, most of the families are not sustained.
She, however, said the early marriage rate in the country has declined to a great extent than the past thanks to various steps of the government.

The feature was jointly produced by UNICEF and BSS