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New legislation in Bangladesh which will allow girls under the age of 18 to be married-off legally in “special circumstances” is a step backwards for young woman, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has warned.
The Child Marriage restraint Bill 2017 gives parents or guardians the ability to seek a court order for children to be married-off in their “best interests.”
Currently, it is illegal for girls under 18 or men under 21 to marry in Bangladesh, although the law is widely flouted.
In some areas of Pakistan, girls and women are vulnerable to harmful traditional practices, like swara (now illegal, a form of reconciliation where a girl or woman is given in marriage to settle a dispute) and early marriage, and many of them face tremendous obstacles to basic services, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
Every year the IPPF awards grants to its young volunteers from around the world to support youth-led projects on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
For 2015, the projects were focused on tackling abortion stigma.
This issue from the Learning from innovation series brings together lessons from three projects that successfully addressed factors which make a particular group of young people vulnerable in the local context. Implemented in Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, each project developed strategies to empower young people and their communities to better protect the sexual and reproductive health of young people and enable them to make choices to improve their lives.
“I was given in Swara when I was 14 years old. The man I was given to has married another woman. He has sold my daughters and would beat me regularly for resisting prostitution.” (Project beneficiary)
Swara, is traditionally practiced in north-west Pakistan where women and girls are given in marriage to settle disputes. Although outlawed in 2005, informal tribal elders still consider it a legitimate form of justice (known as Jirga).