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Thursday, March 3, 2016, Falgun 20, 1422 BS, Jamadiul Awwal 22, 1437 Hijri

Chumki links cell phones to pre-marriage pregnancies
Published :Thursday, 3 March, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 34

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki has drawn a rather bizarre link between the use of mobile phones and teen pregnancies before marriage in Bangladesh.
She has advised community people to introduce special vehicles for the girls when they go to colleges to avoid "problems" that result in child marriage.
The state minister, who is in the eye of a storm for proposing the lowering of the legal age of marriage for girls, was speaking at a discussion in Dhaka on delaying child marriage on Wednesday.
 But Chumki said the government will not bring down the current age of 18 years for girls to be married off.
International NGO Population Council organised the discussion to disseminate the results of its new BALIKA project that showed that girls' age of marriage could be delayed with education support, particularly through tutoring of mathematics and English.
It showed that the marriage age can also be delayed by giving life skills training on gender rights and negotiation, critical thinking and decision making, and livelihood training in entrepreneurship, mobile repair, photography and basic first aid.
The Embassy of Netherlands funded the project to understand how child marriage can be pushed back, since two out of three girls are married off before the legal age of 18 in Bangladesh.
Poverty, practice of dowry, sexual violence and insecurity, and climate change are some of the common factors for this widespread child marriage.
"If you (guardians) become aware, you can avoid troubles," State Minister Chumki told parents.
She said it is only natural nowadays that girls will make friends with boys in schools and colleges. "Due to mobile-phone use, this has become easier now than before.
"But they can get in trouble since they do not have knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.
"We always talk about child marriage, but it is also crucial to know the number of children carrying babies before marriage."
She said she believed that "this situation is better in Bangladesh than that of the development countries".
"But we have to be careful so that this does not come as a new problem (in Bangladesh)."
She also advised parents not to give mobile phones to their children unless it was necessary.
The state minister also urged community people to arrange vehicles for the girls when they go to colleges to avoid problems.
"Schools are normally close to home. But the college is far away from their house. This is a big problem.
"When a 15-year or 16-year old girl wants to go to college, the problem begins there. She will walk, or take a rickshaw or any other vehicle, and she has to face many problems.
"We don't have so many police personnel to guard them all. Don't look up to the government all the time. Community can take step to arrange vehicles from school to college.
"Otherwise, guardians would not want to send them to colleges. And then they will remain at home and finally will be married off."
"If we could take care of this, then the child marriage rate would come down," the state minister felt.    ?

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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