Marrying Too Young: A Silent Reproductive and Human Rights Issue in Bangladesh

Monday, 18 August 2014
Exhibit hall (Dena'ina Center)
Mohammad Mainul Islam, PhD , McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Anita J. Gagnon, PhD , McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
INTRODUCTION:  The right not to engage in sexual relations and the right to exercise control over reproduction may both be violated by early marriage. While the age of marriage is generally on the rise, marriage below the age of 18 is still widely practiced in developing countries. Bangladesh is one such country. There are needs for better understanding of the existing policies and socio-demographic determinants of early marriage among the women below 18 years. In this study we have made attempt to examine the policy implications on early marriage and explore prevalence of early marriage, relationship with socio-demographic variables and adverse health impacts on treating early marriage a problem of human rights by realizing the reproductive health and rights of children and women.

METHODS:  We have done literature review of secondary sources including Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS) Reports. Based on the evidences reflected in survey reports trend line (test for trend) analyses have been done and role of policies to eliminate early marriage have been investigated.  The most recent BDHS 2011 survey data have been analyzed to examine the relationships with age at marriage (cohabitation) below 18 years of 17,749 ever married women age 15-49 and the socio-demographic variables-place of residence, educational attainment, wealth index, women at first marriage, age at first birth, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections(STIs) . Chi-square test and linear regression analyses have been applied.

RESULTS:  Some success of reducing early marriage have been evidenced but the proportion of women age 15, who have begun childbearing remains the same even after two decades where needs strong policy measure to overcome. Age at marriage below 18 years is positively correlated with rural residence, lower educational attainment, and lowest wealth index.

CONCLUSIONS:  The presence of a large proportion of marriages before the legal age, direct contraction to statutory laws, lower performances of policies-both domestic and international show weaken association between the international legal human rights framework applied to sexual and reproductive health rights. Targeted policies focused to rural areas, accelerating higher education, later marriage through legal reform, providing reproductive health education and services, and other affirmative policies and programs are needed to ensure human rights and reproductive rights.