The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Women and Children Affairs Ministry on Thursday submitted its report in Parliament on the much-talked-about Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017, recommending allowing marriage of both underage girls and boys in special cases.
On December 8 last, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze (Chumki) placed the bill in the House with a special provision for the marriage of only underage girls in special cases.
According to Section 2 of the bill, any male who is yet to complete 21 years or any female who is yet to complete 18 years will be considered underage for getting married.
When one or both are underage, this will be defined as ‘child marriage’.
However, as per Section 19 of the proposed law, if any marriage takes place in line with the directives of a court and consent of the parents or guardians alongside specific process in special context for the best interest of an underage female, such marriage will not be considered an offence, according to the report of the parliamentary committee.
With the passage of the bill in the House, the existing Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 will be abolished.
The Cabinet on November 24 last approved the bill that drew criticism from various quarters, especially non-governmental organisations, for allowing child marriage in the name of special cases.
According to the bill, the Mobile Court Act 2009 can be exercised in case of child marriage.
Some local government representatives, including Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Executive Magistrate, Upazila Women Affairs Official, Upazila Social Service Officer, Upazila Primary or Secondary Education Officer, Officer-in-charge of the police station concerned can take necessary measures and legal actions to stop any child marriage upon receiving written or verbal complaint.
The court can stop any child marriage while the punishment for breaching the ban on child marriage is maximum six months’ imprisonment, a maximum Tk 10,000 fine or both.
The punishment of marrying any underage person for an adult woman or man will be maximum two years’ jail, maximum Tk 100,000 as fine or both.
As per section 7 (2) of the proposed law, underage boy and girl will have to undergo a detention of 30 days or pay Tk 50,000 as fine or both in case of any child marriage.
If the guardians concerned or others are associated with child marriage, the punishment is six months to two years’ jail or Tk 50,000 as fine or both while the punishment for officiating such child marriage (for example) is six months to two years’ jail, Tk 50,000 as fine or both.
Besides, the licence of a marriage registrar can also be revoked for registering such child marriage alongside maximum two years’ jail, Tk 50,000 as fine or both.
Birth certificates, national identity cards, passports and certificates of different academic examinations like PEC and equivalent exams, JSC and equivalent exams, and SSC and equivalent exams will be considered as legal documents for verifying the age for getting married.