Child marriage, teenage motherhood common in Kurigram

Ariful Islam, Kurigram
Published : 04:00, Nov 30, 2019 | Updated : 04:00, Nov 30, 2019

If a girl is married off early, the bride’s parents do not have to give any dowry.Hajera Begum was married by her family when she was in class seven. Within two years, she gave birth to twins. She is now 16 and her twin daughters are 22 months old. Many others like her were married off and became teenage mothers below the age of 18. Early marriage and motherhood have become common in Kurigram’s Ghogadah union.
NGO worker Atiqur Rahman, who works with child marriage, says: “Due to a lack of social security and poverty, child marriage is prevalent and most weddings take place in secret. The Kazis have alternative marriage registers where they note down details of husbands and wives without mentioning their age. When the bride and groom reach the marriageable age, the details are noted in the register.”
To give validity to marriages, the Kazis solemnize the marriage as per Sharia rules.
General secretary of ‘Chaya’ – a social platform, Khorshed Alam, says: “The rate of child marriage is around 50 percent. Initially, we failed to prevent child marriage. We now try to lessen the harmful impact of early marriage and are seeing some success.”
In the past few years, the rate of teenage marriage fell from 70 to 50 percent.
'Usually, such marriages are solemnized late at night and when we get information the next day, there’s nothing we can do,' he lamented.
Another reason is that many girls get involved in romantic relations early on and the guardians get them married off, thinking about social respect and honour.
If a girl is married off early, the bride’s parents do not have to give any dowry.
Once a girl becomes an adult, the demand for dowry goes up which is why most parents are eager to get girls married off early.
Kurigram UNO, Nilufa Yasmin, says: “We are getting regular information of child marriage and teenage motherhood and are carrying on our efforts to raise social awareness. In many cases, the marriages are being held outside a village and in secret.”
“We are trying to identify the weak areas where more work is needed, she added.”