Crossing Continents – Child Marriage in Bangladesh

It sounds innocent enough, but the girls explained why they didn’t like being ‘Eve Teased’

“Men say bad things..we are threatened with kidnap, acid violence and even with being killed”
There’s a pause
“They threaten to throw acid in your face?”
“Yes”, the girls explain, “they say you’re so proud of your beauty that if I can’t have you then no one can”

Eve Teasing plays it’s part in the fact that 20% of girls in Bangladesh are forced to marry before the age of 15.
Something that Angus Crawford investigated last month in Crossing Continents on Radio 4.

This particular program had been emotional up to that point, but I felt a wave of despair when I heard that.  I wish I could have said disbelief, but it seemed all too believable to me.

There are other reasons, such as poverty and dowry, that parents feel force them into marrying their daughters off, but there are not just social consequences.

Many girls are pregnant within a year, and a girl under 15 is 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman over 20.  Not only that, but their bodies can be damaged and they can end up with fistula, which makes them incontinent for life.  If this happens the husband normally abandons the girl and she is forced to return to her parents.  A Professor in the program advised that in some cases the girl is forced to live with the cattle due to her condition.

Olly Achmed (my spelling) had a best friend.

“She was taken to her village to get married, but she didn’t come back.  I don’t know what happened to her, I never found anyone like her again”

Olly approached Plan International saying he wanted to set up a group led by children to stop his friends getting married off so young.

He explained why the kids will do better:
“The adults think they are so young and they know so much and we have so much to learn from them”

Olly is just 12 years old.  Just from this program he is a inspiration to me.  And he seems to be having an impact.  Some estimates say that child marriage has dropped 50% in that area.

“I wanted to bring a smile back to the parents faces”

There is a long way to go, but hopefully Olly and his group will be an inspiration to others to let girls in Bangladesh to live out their childhood.

You can listen to the full program and download other episodes here

Plan International’s website, with a feature on child marriage in Bangladesh is here

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