Bangladesh has been accused of taking a “devastating step backwards” in the fight against child marriage by introducing a legal loophole that sets no age limit for wedlock.
The Child Marriage Restraint Bill keeps the legal age of marriage as 18 for women and 21 for men but introduces exceptions in “special cases” or for in the “best interests” of the adolescent.
Campaigners say the law effectively sets the marriageable age at zero but supporters of the law, which needs presidential approval before coming into effect, say courts will prevent abuse by assessing applications.
There are fears the orders could be used to force victims of sexual abuse or pregnant rape victims to marry their abusers.
The Girls Not Brides group said no examples of “special cases” had been given that would make child marriage acceptable, saying other measures such as protecting education and providing economic opportunities for girls would better serve their futures.
Campaigners said the changes to the law would effectively mean that Bangladesh has a “zero minimum age of marriage”.
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