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Her parents consented to stop the marriage after considering the advice given by police and social workers
A wedding that was to be forced upon a 14-year-old Dhaka girl was thwarted by the intervention of her school principal, but the case highlights the difficulty in combating child marriage.
According to a fact sheet on child marriage from BRAC, Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in South Asia at 65% and ranks fourth in the world for the prevalence of the practice.
Pinky Akter, a student of Class 6, was to be wedded to a 30-year-old man in a marriage arranged by her parents despite prohibitions contained in the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. Her parents had scheduled the nuptials for April 11 this year in the capital’s Malibagh neighbourhood.
She wrote this letter of desperation to her parents: “Dear Father and Mother, Take my salam. Tomorrow will be my Gaye Holud. I did not agree to this marriage but you wanted it. Now I am going to such a place where I will die. If you want what is good for me, please stop this wedding. All of you will be responsible for my death.”
On April 10 Zahirul Islam, the principal of Khilgaon Government Colony Secondary High School, where Pinky studies in class 6, learned about the wedding plans and informed members of BRAC’s Safe Citizenship for Girls (MEJNIN) programme.
Together with police, neighbours and social workers, Zahirul went to Pinky’s home around 8pm during her Gaye Holud, a pre-marriage ritual, and asked her parents to stop the wedding.
Her parents consented to stop the marriage after considering the advice given by police and social workers.
Pinky’s parents, Majnu Mia and Shahida Begum, signed an agreement to allow Pinky to continue her education and to abide by it under pain of legal action. Zahirul said: “Since then the school authorities have provided her with a free education. She can continue her education properly.”
“Poverty and a lack of social security affect parents’ decision making. They allow and even encourage child marriages because they think it is best for the child,” said Kazi Shahana, senior sector specialist of the Gender Justice and Diversity Division at BRAC of which MEJNIN is a part.
On October 27 the first ever Bangladesh Girl Summit 2014 will take place at Dhaka’s Osmani Memorial Auditorium.
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