My friend was only 15 when she married

I asked her whether she ever felt like studying again or going to school with everyone else.

Jarin FarhatJarin Farhat
Published : 27 Dec 2022, 12:02 PM
Updated : 27 Dec 2022, 12:02 PM

I often find myself asking, "Why does a child need to worry about marriage?"

As far as I know, children shouldn't be burdened with these worries so early in life. But what may seem absurd to many has actually been in practice for a long time in Asian countries like Bangladesh. What might've been the ideal time for a person to play and take life one step at a time is swept away and young girls are burdened with the responsibility for a whole family's wellbeing. 

Bangladesh has made significant progress in stifling child marriage, according to Tomo Hozumi, UNICEF Bangladesh representative. But our country still has the fourth highest incidence of child marriage among the other countries in the world.

Furthermore, due to the economic impact of COVID-19, the problems faced by girls growing up in rural areas have been amplified to a concerning degree. School closures due to lockdown, isolation from friends, economic difficulties for families, the loss of parents and communities, and service disruptions led to a heightened risk of being married off as a minor. 

Just this year, the daughter of the domestic aide at my grandmother's house, aged 14, was married off. She had been friends with my cousin and I for quite a long time. She usually had a sunny disposition and was very talkative. But days before her marriage, we all noticed a change in her temperament. She wasn't the same girl we had grown up with. She was reticent and looked extremely tired. Right after her marriage, she completely changed, and her mental health deteriorated.

Another case of child marriage affected me personally when I visited my hometown in Pabna in 2020. One of my friends, the same age as me, was married not long before my visit. She was only 15 years old at the time. I had called her a few months earlier to check up on her. Thankfully, she was doing well with her new family. From what I heard, her mother-in-law is very supportive and understanding of her. 

I asked her whether she ever felt like studying again or going to school with everyone else. She told me that right after her marriage, her husband asked her if she wanted to go to school, but she had turned him down as she was not a particularly good student. She is learning to embroider hand-knitted quilts from her mother-in-law and is enjoying her time living there. That is a small ray of hope in the midst of what is considered a bleak situation.

These are only two examples of what is probably the fate of thousands, possibly millions, of girls in our country. While the impact of the pandemic on child marriage is still unquantified, the examples I noted above took place during the pandemic. Bangladesh certainly has to take active steps to prevent young teenagers from getting married and must do so urgently. 

It is not much of a shock that child marriage has many adverse effects on young girls. Health problems due to early pregnancy, abuse, violence against children, and deterioration of mental health are only a few of the common outcomes. It also leads to social isolation and disrupts one's education and future. Simply put, it violates a child's fundamental human rights and robs them of their childhood. Early marriage, in most cases, is an issue faced by girls, which is why it is also a form of gender discrimination. If we are to stop this or, at the least, improve this situation, we must take action quickly.

Reporter's age: 17 District: Dhaka

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher