CHILD MARRIAGE

Published by The Daily Star on 4th May, 2013 (Link Above)

This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies. Our civil and criminal law experts from reputed law chambers will provide the legal summary advice.

Query
One of my close relatives living in my village is getting married. To the best of my knowledge she is only around 15-16. Her parents are saying that a very good marriage proposal has come for her and they do not want to wait and have arranged for the marriage. It appears that the girl herself does not have any say in this matter. Please let us know will the marriage be lawful and is there any way to prevent the said marriage.

Response
Thank you for your query. Child marriages are a very delicate matter in our country and it is unfortunate that many people, especially in the rural areas are unaware of the laws governing the prohibition of such marriages. Despite the fact that a lot of awareness has been created over many years from government and by a good number of NGOs, child marriage has not been uprooted from our society yet. It must, however, be appreciated that both the parents and their children have become more concerned and aware of the negative sides of child marriage and most of the people at least know that it is not lawful. Nevertheless, unfortunate situation arises like the instant one of your relative.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (the ‘Act’) prohibits child marriage. From the year of enactment of the Act one can surely assume that such prohibition on child marriage is not new at all, though the age limit of remaining within the definition of ‘child’ has been increased subsequently. The Act has defined ‘child’ as a male under 21 (twenty-one) years and a female under 18 (eighteen) years of age and prohibits marriage between anyone falling below the abovementioned age range the same being a crime. It is an offence punishable with imprisonment not exceeding one month or fine not exceeding the amount of one thousand taka or both if either an adult male or an adult female marries anyone falling under the definition of a child. Furthermore, the same is applicable for anyone who performs, conducts or directs a child marriage (e.g. a Kazi etc.). It should also be noted that under the Act any parent or guardian or any other person in any other capacity who permits or assists the marriage to take place or fails to prevent it from taking place also commits an offence and is liable to a maximum imprisonment of one month or a fine not exceeding one thousand taka or both, however, no woman can be punished with imprisonment.
Courts shall also not entertain any case after the expiry of one year of the commission of the offence. Hence, the offence should be reported to the police or to the court within a relatively shorter period of time to commence the legal process for commission of the crime of child marriage. However, it is also possible to get an injunction prohibiting such a marriage from taking place, if the same has not yet been taken place. In your relative’s scenario, since the marriage has not yet been taken place you should first try to make their parents understand that it is not only jeopardizing their daughter’s future and health it will also tantamount to crime by the bride, the Kazi and by them. In case if they do not understand and decides to go ahead with the marriage, you may obtain an injunction over the marriage from the court. Lastly, it should be noted that while a marriage that has already taken place between underage individual/individuals is an offence, the marriage itself will not become illegal.
I hope this adequately explains your query and you would be able to convince your relatives from pursuing a child marriage.

For detailed query contact: omar@legalcounselbd.com.