Bangladesh sets 2-year jail term for involvement in child marriage

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh on Monday approved a law setting a two-year jail term for anyone involved in marrying a girl aged under 18, in a bid to cut the country's notoriously high child marriage rate.

The new law comes days after new United Nations figures showed two-thirds of Bangladeshi girls marry before they reach adulthood. It targets the parents or guardians and the marriage registrar, as well as the groom.

"Anyone found responsible for child marriage, including the groom, the marriage registrar or the guardians, would be jailed for up to two years," said Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.

The current legal age for marriage in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men. Child marriage is punishable by up to three months' jail but the law is poorly enforced. The Bill is expected to be passed during the current session of Parliament, Mr Bhuiyan told AFP. Girls and women will not be punished for marrying an underage man.

"We do not want to jail people, but the goal is to prevent people from this bad practice," he said.

A report published last week by the UN children's agency said Bangladesh's high rate of child marriage was putting girls at risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.