A uniform law for mandatory marriage registration needed
IT IS indeed alarming that, according to a recent survey conducted by the Barisal NGO Development Network, at least 29 out 282 marriages, or nearly one in ten, registered in Barisal between January and March involved under-aged brides. Moreover, according to the Bangladesh Democratic and Health Survey, the average age of marriage for girls in the country is 16.4 years, way short of 18 as determined by law. Key reasons for the prevalence of early marriages, according to participants in a views-exchange meeting in Barisal on Sunday, as reported in New Age on Monday, seem to be ‘unequal and unsafe society, fear of stalking and poverty’. The participants have rightly pointed out that lack of awareness about the ramification of such marriages, coupled with the complicity of some unscrupulous marriage registrars, have compounded the situation further. Hence, their suggestion that the government should enact a law applicable to all people regardless of their faith, making marriage registration mandatory with birth certificate, national identity card and photo of the bride and the groom, sounds reasonable.
There is at present a law that makes registration of marriage with a legal body mandatory. Regrettably, however, it applies to Muslim marriages only. Besides, due to lack of enforcement or the weak provisions of the law concerned, lots of Muslim marriages still take place especially in rural areas, without any registration. As a result, a huge number of women in particular, when they maintain a marriage relationship or get divorced, are deprived of their rights, legal and social. As for Hindu marriages, registration of which has not yet been made mandatory, the less said the better.
It may be worth recalling here that, in reference to the recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry, we earlier demanded in these columns that the government should enact a common law for mandatory marriage registration. The revelations of the study in question undoubtedly vindicate our position. It is high time that the incumbents paid heed to this.
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