May 25, 2013 | 09:46 AM (BD Time)
25 May, 2013 Saturday
Socio-economic implications of early marriage
N.S.M Muzzammel Huq:
Early marriage continues to be a normal phenomenon in the developing country like Bangladesh. Early marriage is social "curse" associated with a number of socio-economic outcomes. It lowers child and adolescents schooling levels, increases higher rates of maternal mortality and domestic violence. It also creates adverse affects on population growth, increases spread of diseases and unemployment. The government and the policy makers in developing countries face problems to eliminate the practice of early marriage because of the ignorance, absence of effective legal provisions and social motivations. Age old social customs, traditions, religious superstitions stand in the way of abolishing early marriage or marriage at improper age. In Bangladesh, the poverty-stricken, unequal, patriarchal society have all the reasons behind the elevated rate of early marriage. Economic burden of families and search for financial and social security, prospect of lower dowry-payment in case of early age and ensuring safety for sexual harassment of young girls contribute the larger section of population to give this girls marriage in early age.
According to the UNICEF 66% of the Bangladeshi girls get married before the age of 18 years and this is one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world.
Different causes are responsible for early marriage. Social insecurity backed by poverty is a major factor encouraging early marriage. Young girls are often considered as economic burden by their families and to get rid of this burden they give their daughters marriage at an early age. The fear of sexual harassment of young daughters also encourages their parents to go for early marriage to protect girl's sexuality in an unsafe environment. Lack of awareness, religious attitude, misconception, fanaticism and superstitions also mastermind the mindset of the rural parents leading to early marriage. Social problem like eve teasing, acid throwing and different types of bad behavior on the part of teen aged boys of influential families compelled the parents of girls to choose early marriage as a way out from this confronting situation. Influence of film, drama, novel, electronic media, internet etc encourages teen age group to fall in love and get married early. Early marriage due to natural physiological growth and romanticism of teen age youth also are responsible for early marriage. Besides that, lack of consciousness on health consequence of early marriage also contribute to this irresponsible act. The match makers and the kazis are also ignorant about the consequence of early marriage or they think about satisfying their own interest. So it is found that multifarious reasons contribute behind committing this act of curse "early marriage".
There is no denying in the fact that this early marriage has it negative socio- economic implications in the long run. It increases violence, health treatment expenditure, family conflicts, suicidal attitude, and rate of divorce, child and maternal mortality rate, child delivery complications, prostitutions and make poor people poorer. It creates matrimonial problems, increases gender based violence, increases women trafficking and encourages remarriage.
The early marriage has also its specific impact on women's health such as - malnutrition, ill or broken health, unidentified health problem, low birth weight of children, high birth rate, increase in mental rest lessens. From pure economic point of view, early marriage increases financial insolvency, decreases income, interest of work, loss of peace and self confidence and ultimately obstacles in family and national development.
But how we can get rid if this curse- 'the early marriage'? All conscious citizens of the country will agree that this social evil must be eliminated for our own interest. Massive awareness building program should be undertaken to aware parents, relatives, kazis and match makers. Negative side of this harmful practice of early marriage should be discussed with the local elite and the religious leaders. For the prevention of early marriage workshops, seminars, interpretation by GO- NGO's at local level are necessary.
The electronic and print media may publicize the negative aspects and harmful effect of the early marriage and merits of marriage at proper age (a bit delayed marriage).
Teachers at all level of educational institutions, administrative personnel and law enforcing agencies, civil society members and public representatives at local and central level should advocate the marriage at proper age i.e. discouraging early marriage. Alongside measures should be taken to increase social security or safety net, root out superstitions, removes illiteracy, increase employment opportunities, women employment. The hardcore poor people may be provided cash incentive during the marriage of their children in proper age. Birth registration should be made strictly effective. Cases of violations of marriage registrations should be brought to legal procedures and ensure government birth certificate to be produced before marriage registration.
Our dream is to ensure a society free from gender inequality, early marriage and gender based violence. We have a vision for a society where women and girls will live a respectful and happy life free from harmful practices and superstitions. Let us change our attitude and behavioral pattern to free this society from the curse of early marriage.
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