Diakonia - People change the world
The staff members at the Diakonia partner organization MKP in Bangladesh. Banu Begum stands in the middle, dressed in turquoise. She was the one who overheard that two little babies were going to be married off. To the left of Banu Begum stands Moushumi Rahman. Photo: MD. Hasan Jan, ITO

Bangladesh: No to child marriage

In Bangladesh, the Diakonia partner Manab Kallyan Parished, MKP works to promote equality, to prevent violence against women and to bring perpetrators of violence to justice. Recently its staff members managed to stop the forced marriage between two little children.   

The babies were going to be married off

“I was so surprised when I realised that the little boy with the dummy in his mouth and the little baby sitting on her mother’s knee were going to be married the next day,” says Moushumi Rahman, who works for Diakonia’s partner organization Manab Kallyan Parished (MKP) in Bangladesh.

It was an ordinary afternoon in March in the town of Thakuraon in northern Bangladesh. The roads were full of people on their way home from work, and children were out playing. It was an ordinary day too for Banu Begum, who works as a cleaner at MKP. She had finished work and was out collecting leaves to use as fuel for cooking. As usual, she went to a spot close to a playground and, as usual, there were a lot of children playing there. The children were talking about two babies who were going to be married off a couple of days later. Bana Begum found out that it was the children’s grandfather, 70 year-old Salam, who had arranged the marriage between his grandchildren, who are cousins.

Child marriage is forbidden

Banu Begum has worked as a cleaner at MKP for over four years. She knew that child marriage was forbidden, so the next morning she told her colleagues at MKP about the marriage plans. MKP’s gender expert, Moushumi Rahman, immediately went over there together with seven other colleagues. They tried to talk to the children’s families, who were neither particularly poor nor poorly-educated. One of Salam’s daughters then said that it was her father and brothers who were planning the wedding.

She said, sadly, that her father had also married her off while she was still a child.
“And now he’s planning to do the same thing with his grandchildren,” she said.

“Unfortunately, my brothers are on his side, and the children’s mothers have no say in the matter, even if they are against the marriage.”

"Save their lives!"

She asked MKP to save the children’s lives.

To stop the marriage, MKP contacted the police and local media. The police arrested the fathers of the children. They were released after they had signed an undertaking that they would never try to marry off their underage children.
MKP was able to put a stop to the marriage with the help of the authorities. But events like these are taking place across Bangladesh.

“It is disgraceful and completely incomprehensible that babies should be forced into marriage,” says Rabiul Azam, Director of MKP. “There must be an end to this!”