Bangladesh set to reduce allowable age of child marriage to zero

March 12, 2017 • 11:00 am

According to the site Girls Not Brides, since 1929 the legal age of marriage in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men. Yet the law is widely flouted: 52% of Bangladeshi girls are married by 18, and 18% by the age of 15. This is the second highest rate of child marriage on the planet. (Note that Wikipedia cites several countries with higher rates of under-18 marriages; Niger, a highly Muslim country, is the highest with up to 76% of marriages involving women under 18.)

Now, in a regressive move, Bangladesh is considering adopting the “Child Marriage Restraint Act”, which has already passed Parliament but awaits Presidential approval. According to an article in The Independent, the old limits will be kept but a new loophole will be introduced that allows people to marry at younger ages “in special cases”, or where such marriages are “in the best interests” of the child. There is no lower age limit for this loophole, theoretically allowing very young girls to get married, or women to marry their rapists or statutory rapists. (Supporters of the bill note that it will also increase punishments of those who violate the Act.)

As the Independent reports:

The Girls Not Brides group said no examples of “special cases” had been given that would make child marriage acceptable, saying other measures such as protecting education and providing economic opportunities for girls would better serve their futures.

. . . “The need to protect the ‘honour’ of girls who have become pregnant was widely cited by the Bangladesh government as the reason for this provision. However marriage is not the best way to protect adolescent girls and exposes them to greater harm.”

Now I’m not gong to pin this solely on Islam, as some African countries with high rates of child marriage are not majority-Muslim, yet have cultural and societal excuses for such marriages. But Islam certainly promotes this kind of behavior by reinforcing the “honour and purity” culture, as well as by the example of Muhammad, who, according to tradition, married one child of six and took her virginity when she was nine and he 53. And other religions, like Mormonism, also promote this reprehensible practice.

The law will be finalized today after the government makes any amendments. The only amendment that should be made is to reaffirm the 1929 law.

Below is a picture from the Independent article with the caption: “15 year old Nasoin Akhter is consoled by a friend on the day of her wedding to a 32 year old man, August 20, 2015 in Manikganj, Bangladesh.”

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54 thoughts on “Bangladesh set to reduce allowable age of child marriage to zero

  1. Legalized paedo is what it is.

    Sweden is already allowing ‘special’ cases of child marriage to go through:

    A 14-year-old child bride from Syria came to Sweden and became pregnant with her husband, who is also her cousin. Now a Swedish court has approved of her marriage, because she appears “mature,” and for religious and cultural reasons.

    The girl was married off to a cousin when she was only twelve years old. In Sweden, she has been placed with his aunt and her family.

    Am I wrong to invoke the slippery slope? Has a precedent been set? Will Swedish, and other European judges, eventually decide that marriages to 8 year olds are acceptable ‘cuz muh culture?’

    1. “Religious and cultural reasons?” Let me guess…pedophilia’s now ingrained in their religion and culture?

      On the other hand…what should happen to that little girl? She’s already married and her entire family apparently approves.

      I work at Planned Parenthood. A few weeks ago, we had a patient who is 13 (closer to 12 than 14.) Outside, protesting marchers pronounced us “murderers.” What would they have done? Forced her into childbirth?

      1. “What would they have done? Forced her into childbirth?”

        Yes! I always pose this question to pro-lifers. I have a certain morbid curiosity. I want to see how low they will sink to prove their virtue.

        I usually ask them about 9 year old pregnant bridges in Afghanistan. I explain all of the health risks, tell them to google perineal tears, obstetric fistula, I tell them that these girls, should they survive pregnancy at 9, will probably be pregnant their entire lives.

        What do the pro-lifers say in response?

        1) 9 year pregnant child brides have *maternal obligations*

        2) 9 year old child brides, should they survive the pregnancy, should be happy that they get to live, even if permanently disabled.

        It’s truly sick. This is why I compare pro-lifers to SJWs – they fetishize something, be it the hijab, or fetuses, and they worship it and protect it *NO MATTER WHAT*.

        Johnathan Haidt discusses this phenomenon in Part 1 of this video, featured on this website:

        1. I just realized that I wrote this “pregnant bridges” <—Which makes perfect sense if electrons are aliiiiiiiiiiiive!

          1. Haha! I bet you think you’re being funny!

            They do actually. We should all have a ‘conception date’ and ‘birth date’ should be discarded.

            They are beyond parody, just like SJWs.

            Come up with something batshit, and you can guarantee that a fanatic, somewhere, has considered it in all seriousness.

            1. In parts of Asia (not sure how widespread) on your delivery date you are considered one year old. This seems to be a way of acknowledging the gestation period but with no concern for real accuracy.

          2. As despicable as this is, you’ve anecdotally pointing out they have not gone far enough.

            The end point of their desire to institute the lowest moral bar on the planet is a single finish line where every female loses.

          3. It’s all fun and games until the pro-lifers achieve their ultimate goal of tacking a “personhood” amendment onto the US Constitution; then the capital murder prosecutions for killing the unborn commence.

    2. This is certainly awful but we do need to be careful with terms. Paedophelia refers to pre pubescents. If she’s pregnant she’s not.
      There are studies about treatment and behavior that depend on this distinction.

      As to your question, it’s more than a slippery slope. It establishes special legal statuses for muslims (privileges for thosewho happen to be male, privations for those who happen to be young and female).

      1. But they still have age of consent laws for any sort of sexual relationship, precluding any such “marriage” from having any sexual component whatsoever by law. So an age of marriage law seems pretty unnecessary when you have age of consent for sexual relationships laws in place already.

        1. Not sure where you’re getting that from, BJ. The states that allow minors to get married have have exceptions in their age-of-consent laws for married couples. New Hampshire’s criminal code, for example, defines statutory sexual assault as “sexual penetration with a person, other than his legal spouse, who is 13 years of age or older and under 16 years of age.” NH Criminal Code section 632-A:3

      2. Do those laws pre-date the presence of any appreciable number of people who weren’t (counted as) Christian? The sort of place where a corpse washed up naked on the ocean shore would be buried with full Christian (local sept, obviously ; everyone else being wrong) rites, and no-one even thinking there might just possibly be something inappropriate about that.
        i.e., it is all about controlling women by keeping them barefoot, pregnant and chained down by the apron strings.

      3. However, I bet both my hands that these regrettable texts exist because of religion. Not Islam, maybe Mormonism or Amish or another home-grown cult (though some Muslims now may make good use of it).

    3. We mustn’t pander to this. We mustn’t let islamists argue that pushback against the increasing practise of dark ages type Islam in the West is “racist” and that Islamaphobia is an acceptable term.

      We can’t afford to let groups that aggressively promote these values further weaken our societies by exacerbating the split between nativist right and SJW left – I mean some of the left has always been anti west and Marxist – just like stupid rational economic man people think society can be reduced to a supposedly fair Market. the nativist right hate liberalism and globalisation – the SJW left hate their own society and embrace and promote the most illiberal other cultures so long as these culture have an anti west cast.

      I frankly see SJWs and white religious extremists as mirrors in many ways. Both prefer some non existent abstract singular Principle about Everything that trashes reality. They don’t care about actual quality of life for people so much as their principle (We Will have a Traditionalist Patriarchal Family VERSUS We will uphold “Justice” by trashing the West and assuming that other cultures don’t have domination oriented objectives, or at least never like the West does!.

      A few posts ago Jerry pointed out gender morphological differences and that natural selection leads men to compete for mates more than women do hence tendency to polygamy etc in many societies. Id add that human patriarchal history and warfare of pretty much every culture looks like Chimps not Bonobos except that chimps are much more violent (>4 x intraspecies kill rate) and more sexually abusive (the males that are not alpha chimps batter and rape females as a normal matter of course – lovely). However where animals compete directly for mates by display or combat, humans require so much infrastructure to support their undeveloped and slow developing young they have to cooperate, “brain” and specialise in ways no other animal does to ensure their young survive to reproductive age. Competition takes the form of 1. work and career excellence 2. corruption and extortion by dynasties/families throughout society and 3. warfare/raiding for resources or the military prestige that defends and extends those resources. These things precede capitalism which is just a mode of economics and Modern societies spend more of their resources on 1 than rural ones and I would argue that the cultures that support the very traditional, dominant male norm of the family are far more compatible with 2 and 3. Thats because modern Western style societies are not rural and offer way better chances that offspring will survive to adulthood than other societies.
      Very Recently human society has developed abilities to hugely reduce infant mortality world wide, extend human life span and also reliable plan or control fertility artificially – however conditions in western style societies is still very much better than elsewhere.
      Western and western style societies critically rely on science, technology and very complex machinery of government and administration to make these things possible and regulate 2 and 3. In other countries 2 is rampant throughout society as a way of interacting – as the normal course of things u get things done through contacts and favours rather than contracts and merit – this is a generalisation but it characterises the difference. Also because the society is both more clannish and life more insecure there is more 3 and more support for 3, plus there is likely to be more civil war.

      Some cultures, and their religion are stuck in this old way of looking at things and some are in addition to that evangelical about it by nature of the religion. They want us to be like them. Islam is the Most patriarchal and aggressive of these.

      1. PS Im not saying life isn’t really hard in non western societies – people work really hard but if they want to better themselves they are more likely to have to rely on some form of 2 or to emigrate to the West to work/study there.

    4. And also re the “slippery slope” Referring to my comment March 12, 2017 at 11:23 pm
      Western treatment of women has changed because of the things mentioned there. Prosperity and an elaborate social, infrastructure and political structure enable liberalism. There is pushback to liberal values whenever the society is under serious pressure economically, security wise or culturally – a tendency of many to want to revert to old norms. I think the nativist right is significantly about this, though of course there are those who aren’t chauvinist – just worried. But in the family domain the old way of doing things is patriarchal. Likewise – in cultures that never changed that to start with – they are being empowered by the regressive part of the Left which tell them all their problems are because of their humiliation and exploitation by the West and the west needs to change more than they need to modernise old chauvinist norms.

      Furthermore, in the past various types of organised religious patriarchal norm imposed male obligations for support in exchange for female subservience, female faithfulness, expectations nearly all men would have mates at some stage, whilst punishing taking other mens women, and offering some minimum social security and some collective military defence. Religion lessened male mate competition in a large dense society whilst committing society to maximum overall reproductive output in pre modern conditions, and expecting believers to accept the leadership of rulers so long as the latter were devout. Smaller societies (hunter gatherer, and non metropolitan civilisations) had slightly different contracts. But such cultures arose in conditions of limited social mobility in a traditional structure controlling competition for agricultural, pastoral, trade and strategic resources. Ordinary men accepted their poverty so long as they weren’t starving and the great leader could ensure security from other societies and maintenance of what land they already had, because the leader also ensured mate access and best chances of successfully rearing the offspring through the religion. In societies that have been able to establish modern conditions this is no longer the case – and even the post WW2 global medical advances regarding vaccinations, sanitation etc alone have made a huge difference. Some formerly traditionalist societies outside the west have modernised their cultures too in terms of humane family practises and democratic structures. The other thing is the contraceptive pill which brought the great boon of family planning (thus reducing the ancient scourge of infanticide or exposure of infants born at unpropitious times or circumstances). The pill also disconnected sex from risk of pregnancy – something the religious hate. Better to have lots of dead infants and a large family of malnourished in a society ravaged by war and corruption than two or three healthy children living lives filled with opportunities.

      These older cultural/religious values and behaviours ORIGINATED as ways for men in large societies to access a mate and reduce conflict whilst increasing chances for both sexes, of raising offspring to adulthood. Consequently it has a sacred mystique that people often cling to even if in a modern world it increases material poverty. Of course poverty helps maintain it and makes it harder to get out of – but the wealthy in and out of the culture support it also.
      Traditionalists in non modern societies are only impressed by is an increase of standard of living if this enhances the relative power of the society because in ancient conditions the latter enhances every man’s reproductive chances over all. The challenge is to hammer home that in the modern world these values only lead to corruption, poverty, internal strife, war, sectarian rivalry and weakness in the wider world because the wider world is not the religious fantasy they think. Modernisation is a better way. The victimhood whinge is only a disguised desire to dominate others – whether it comes from Islamists having their egos stroked by the regressive left who hate their own society – or from nativist extremists and religious nutters in the west.

      Trump, Mercer, the Kogh brothers are examples of dynastic corruption – seeking to undermine those of the governance structures that are there for the people to minimise or thwart corruption and abuse of power. Its just that the US has a lot more such structures than the great majority other countries.

    5. AFAIK most if not all western judicial systems have some mechanism for allowing teens to gain the rights given to an adults – if the teen wants to legally fight for them. In the article you cite, it’s not clear whether the teen is opposed to her marriage or approves of it and fought for her right to remain with her husband/cousin in court.

      So, this could be a markedly different sort of case. I’m not saying the court made the right decision, but if the teen is fighting essentially for the right of emancipation after the fact that she got married, then that makes it a bit different from the “classic” example of forced marriage.

  2. Oh, so Bangladesh is going to pass a law that makes its marriage age requirements identical to those of more than half of all states in the US (i.e. no minimum age at all).

    Arranged marriages are poison. Focusing on the ages is besides the point, especially when those ages are not unusual in full view of history, or past the completion of puberty, where the term “child marriage” is no longer accurate.

    1. Except in the US, regardless of whether or not you actually married someone underage, you’d still be breaking the law by having any sexual relationship of any sort with them. There’s no need for the law you suggest because it’s already essentially prevented by another law.

      1. What state allows people to get married (or recognizes a marriage entered into in another jurisdiction), but nonetheless prohibits them from having sex? I’m unaware of any.

        1. Wait, what? No state in the U.S. allows anyone under 14 to have sex with an adult. I’m confused as to what you’re asking. Allowing people to get married doesn’t suddenly give them a loophole through the state’s age of consent law.

          1. Let me be crystal clear then: states that allow minors to get married also exempt from their age-of-consent laws sex between such married couples.

            There is to my knowledge no state in the Union in which a minor can get married, but is legally prohibited from having sex with his or her spouse. Hell, in the states that allow minors to get married upon “good cause,” the most common cause cited is that the girl is pregnant with the husband-to-be’s child.

  3. “Child Marriage Restraint Act” – I see they are following the right-wing practice of naming a law for the opposite effect of that law.

  4. This cruel business must have to do with the presumably long history of women being viewed as property, help-meet, secondary, breedstock, etc. With this in mind a girl’s education and social opportunity is of no real value. This attitude is more mildly reflected in many cultures in the general preference for the birth of boys rather than girls. Boys, after all can learn to plow. Girls can only sing and sow.

  5. NOT, now, even giving over any consideration AT ALL to: The Flip / Reverse of Old Women marrying Young and Little Boys … … NOT even, in y2017, considering the egalitarianism of that, THEN My Query is — and this, my query, is an absolutely serious questioning of Any and All Readers — — This Query:

    Given religious, cultural, societal, financial, political, given ANY AT ALL ASPECT, how, I ask, .HOW. can men / how can Human Males ANYwhere think, TRULY DEEP DOWN IN TO THEIR OWN BONES, think year after decade after century after century that: this is IN ANY WAY okay ? that this is REALLY and TRULY … … TO The Good of ANY of the World’s human populations ?

    I am serious. I would like an answer. In y2017, this ?


    1. Bizarre as it seems, they do believe that. Two scenarios, and they are sick:

      1. A young girl is pregnant from rape. Pregnancy outside marriage destroys her ability to find a husband, and a woman without a husband has no value in the culture. Therefore it’s better to marry her rapist to regain her “honour”.

      2. The family is poor. Selling a daughter into marriage enables them to keep eating.

      Both the prime minister and leader of the opposition in Bangladesh are women. However, they are from the privileged class that will never be directly affected by this. That is a reason why Reza Aslan holding up Muslim countries with women leaders does not work as an argument. These women get the job because of their name, not their gender.

      1. “”The family is poor. Selling a daughter into marriage enables them to keep eating. “”

        Yep. When you have 6-8 kids and you are living on 1 acre of land…you sell the girls into prostitution or you simply marry them off to older men. From what I understand, this is fairly common in Africa and of course Asia.

        This is one reason why I am really sick of the arguments that overpopulation is not a problem, and that resources will always exist in an infinite supply. Oh, you don’t have enough food to feed your 12 kids? Well, let’s just magically create enough food with technology because technology magically solves everything!

        And these people also seem to think that people will be content to all live at near-subsistence levels in order that there is enough food to share amongst Earth’s future population of 7 trillion. I have seen both lefties and righties make this argument – that technology is magic, that people will just learn to ‘get along and share’ and that we will never ever run out of resources.

        1. Yeah. And even if they admit there’s a problem, they think the problem isn’t people having more children than they can look after, but all the food those in wealthy countries waste. If we just didn’t waste stuff everyone would be all right and it’s all our fault again, because everything is the West’s fault. The misogynistic cultures and religions that perpetuate the paradigm have nothing to do with it of course.

          1. “”they think the problem isn’t people having more children than they can look after, but all the food those in wealthy countries waste””

            Yep, that’s what they always say. The world has more than enough food, we just need to share!

            Ok, now tell me, in detail, how we are going to share? Or are you just throwing out empty talking points without actually thinking about the details?

            And they seem to think that people will be willing to share any excess resources. Really? You think Sunni Muslims are going to want to share with Shia? That Muslims are going to get along with…anyone?

            These people are living in a fantasy world.

            1. Since a lot of the food wasted is just because it’s fresh food gone off, left over etc, I’m not sure it could have been shared anyway. Do starving people on other continents really want me to post them my apple cores and kumara peelings?

        2. I am really sick of the arguments that overpopulation is not a problem, and that resources will always exist in an infinite supply. Oh, you don’t have enough food to feed your 12 kids? Well, let’s just magically create enough food with technology because technology magically solves everything!

          The flip side of this (I completely agree with you, BTW, though I’ve never heard anyone below an Economics professor stupid enough to seriously argue that any resource exists in an infinite supply) is that any claim of “working towards a sustainable future” needs to work out how to get “there” from the here and now, including specifically the necessary excess of deaths over births. You can argue over detailed numbers, but I reckon something like 3 to 5 gigadeaths, and more likely to the upper end of that range.
          (For scale, WW2 was around 0.05 Gdeath.)

          1. “”, though I’ve never heard anyone below an Economics professor stupid enough to seriously argue that any resource exists in an infinite supply)”‘

            This argument takes two forms.

            1) Technology is magic! We can burn through resources now because scientists will figure out a way to conjure water, food and energy out of nothing when we do run low on resources!

            2) Look, you moron! Water was just discovered in Nigeria! A huge aquifer! See! The Earth will NEVER run out of water because we keep finding new sources!!!!

            Those two arguments have been used on me.

            If you look at any now extinct civilization, you will notice that they all went through cycles of intensification and depletion. Someone invents a more efficient way to produce crops -> surplus -> population growth -> production is intensified to meet demand -> population growth – rinse and repeat until the earth can give no more and it all collapses, as famine and drought set in.

            I am not so arrogant as to believe that we are immune from this sort of thing. We have just been very very lucky.

            1. Classical Economics is another ideology – ignoring resources are finite and biology is a terrible struggle against huge limitations. We are better at framing beliefs to fit a society’s situation then sticking to it regardless of subsequent changes

              Careful assessment of likelihood is always better than supposed absolute truths.

    2. re sharing of the World’s resources, though: ONE of the things a daughter is asked to, and most are willing to share, is .AFFECTION.

      Affection for her family members and extended family members and for her community’s members. Of at where she grows the hell up.

      Say, Daughter (somehow & by whatever means) gets education; she gets educated and she escapes to, O, elsewhere, to anywhere else. What, as solutions that that education of hers is or that have been offered up here on this thread as a way to help one person who is female in such countries, cultures, religions, etc, does not — — this solution, her education, does NOT allow for her to have ANY share in her community’s, her extended family’s, her own father’s, her own mother’s … … AFFECTIONS.

      THAT IS, she MUST — for her whole educated life now — stay the hell WAY AWAY from ALL of them. OR, she very likely will be killed. At the LEAST, pissed at or shunned by ALL of them.


      Again, I ask: .HOW. can men / how can Human Males ANYwhere think, deep deep down in to their cores that, as regards their very own progeny, female that she be: this is IN ANY WAY okay ?

      TO .that. query IS the answer that I seek.


  6. Anytime male power-machers start promoting “[t]he need to protect the ‘honour’ of girls,” terrible policy is sure to follow.

  7. The best ways to protect women and girls is to educate them and delay marriage. It’s also the quickest way out of poverty for a country and works every time. In fact, it’s actually a better economic return to educate girls than boys because women reinvest in their local community and are less likely to spend on things like drugs, gambling, prostitution, alcohol, tobacco etc. which don’t return very well economically.

    1. Yes, Heather, I think so too. Empowering women, education, is the way out of poverty. Note that you are in good company there, the Hitch argued it on several occasions.

      1. I didn’t know he said that. 🙂 It’s a fairly common argument from economists, and there’s lots of data to back it up.

  8. I gather that in ‘traditional’ hunter-gatherer societies a female becomes ‘fair game’ at puberty. And many later societies continued that notion
    In more modern societies, where e.g. education is important, we have moved the age for marriage and consent up (I think form good reasons).
    In SA they have a kind of ‘incremental’ system of consent. 16 is the age where a girl (or boy for that matter) is considered to be able to give consent. Sex with someone under 16 by an older person is statutory rape. Between 12 and 16, however, it is not statutory rape if the age difference is 2 years or less. Between 16 and 18 is still considered under age, but not statutory rape.
    It is a difficult question, but I somehow like the ‘incremental’ principle.

    1. In more modern societies, where e.g. education is important, we have moved the age for marriage and consent up

      From which we can infer the inverse : that the politicians of Bangladesh (and countries planning implementing similar laws) do not consider themselves to be (or the particular politicians do not want the countries to be) modern societies.
      Many of these politicians would agree with you on that point. Some of them proudly base their public platforms on that point.

        1. My point is not that these actions are desirable in themselves – it’s that if you want to spread democracy (great, fine, marvellous, pass the ticks and lets have a parade) then you also have set up the conditions for people with differing social opinions to you to run their societies their way. And if they choose (for whatever reasons) to do what you and I consider to be wrong, then we have no choice but to accept what happens. Some book of bullshit cast a swine of a saying in amongst the pearls of religious bullshit, about “sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind”.
          Odd choice of words that, if it’s KJV ; not a lot of whirlwinds in Jacobean Englandshire. Maybe it’s from an American 2infallible” translation?

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