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Harrowing tales of depravity Where child marriage is the norm

Harrowing tales of depravity Where child marriage is the norm

Author: Star Roving Team
Publication: The Daily Star
Date: November 10, 2001
URL: http://www.dailystarnews.com/200111/10/n1111001.htm#BODY11

Despite intensive campaigns by successive governments, child marriage is widely prevalent in Bhola district, particularly in the Hindu community, for what they call "lack of security for female children."

School teachers in Lalmohon, Char Fasson and other remote areas of the district say that most of the female students cannot continue studies beyond class six or seven. Both the rich and the poor parents either get their children married to relatives or friends of the same age or withdraw them from school and send them elsewhere.

Many of these couples, as young as 12, end up having children at an age when they are supposed to study and play. In Annada Prashad village in Lord Hardinge Union under Lalmohon Upazila, almost every Hindu family have a child couple.

Tripti Rani Das, hardly 13, at Nishi Kanta Dasher Bari showed all signs of malnutrition. She looked pale. The adult-size saree she wore hung over her body. Her mother-in-law Radha Rani said that her son Jagannath was also as young as Tripti. She was married because her parents did not feel secure as youths in the area were constantly teasing her on way to school.

Many adult women of hardly 25 have children as old as 12, which show that child marriage is prevalent in the areas for long.

"Here you cannot find many female children in higher classes at schools because there is no security for them. If the child is fair complexioned, the problem is multiplied for the parents," said Narayan Das, a school teacher. With the post election atrocities on the Hindu community across Bhola district, many have already left for unknown destinations. Those who have clung to their homes and lands have been thrown into more uncertainty.

Narayan said the increasing practice of child marriage among neighbours and friends is 'a demonstration of fear.' By getting their children married, many families grow bonds and relationships with one another, which give them a feeling of togetherness.

"On top of that, superstition and traditional practices are also influencing both the Hindus and the Muslims to get their children married before puberty. For instance, if the mother of a child had been married at a tender age, the family starts eyeing the child as soon as she is 10," Narayan said. " The Bangla saying that a woman becomes elderly at the age of 20 (kuritey boori) is widely believed in the villages. There is no programme at the schools or with the local governments to discourage this practice."

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