NEW DELHI: Bangladesh has taken a step backwards in it’s fight against child marriage by introducing a controversial clause in a law that was passed on February 27t. While many laws are enacted throughout the world not many can claim to have influence on the lives of 30 million girls.

According to the law the minimum age for marriage is 21 years for boys and 18 years for girls. But marriages for underage brides and grooms are allowed to marry with parental consent and the court’s consent under ‘special contexts’ deemed in the ‘best interests’ of the underage female or male. Hence Child marriage wouldn’t even be considered an offence in these ‘special cases’

According to UNICEF, Bangladesh has the highest rate of marriage involving girls under the age of 15 in Asia. 52% girls get married before 18 and one fifth of them are married even before they turn 15.

The law doesn’t require the permission of the underage girl or boy for a marriage to occur. Critics say that the law would have unimaginable impact on the life of 30 million girls. It has a lot of criticism for human rights groups as it allegedly effectively sets the minimum age for marriage in Bangladesh to zero years.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, the Human Rights Watch criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for going back on her promise to end child marriages. To which she replied by saying, “A law can never be rigid, there must have an alternative in special cases particularly in case of unexpected pregnancy of any girl under 18. Otherwise, it may be disastrous for the society.”

"Evidence globally shows that requiring parental and court consent does not protect girls from child marriage. Girls Not Brides Bangladesh expects that it could be widely abused and effectively mean that Bangladesh has no minimum age of marriage." said Girls Not Brides which is a global partnership of 700+ civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage.

Human rights organisations have voiced their opinion about how the law jeopardizes the future of million girls who might be deprived of basic education and healthcare services amongst a lot of other things as child brides. This law could also lead to a situation where a rape victim is forced to marry a rapist as pointed out by Heather Barr.

Heather Barr who is a senior researcher on women’s rights in Human rights Watch said, "Weakening the law is a setback for the fight against child marriage, and sends a message to parents... that the government thinks child marriage is acceptable in at least some situations”.

Given the current situation in Bangladesh, the law poses many questions about the legislature of Bangladesh and the future of millions of girls that has been put at a risk by the law in it’s current form.