[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday urged [press release] the Bangladeshi government not to revise its law to lower the minimum age for marriage, calling for it to set the minimum age for marriage at 18 instead. HRW's statement came in response to media reports that the cabinet of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [JURIST news archive] is considering changing the country's law to make the minimum marrying age for girls 16 years old. The revisions, according to the advocacy group, would render the country's recent efforts to reduce child marriage among girls moot. In order to comply with international prohibitions against child marriage and international laws against gender discrimination, the minimum age of marriage for both men and women must be set at 18.
The Child Marriage Prevention Act of 2014 was approved [JURIST report] by Bangladesh officials in September. The unrevised law, which was approved during a Cabinet meeting presided over by the prime minister, sets the minimum age of marriage for men at 21 and for women at 18. It also sets [AFP report] a two year jail term for any person who marries a girl under the age of 18. While women who violate the law would not face prison time, offenders would be fined and parents and marriage registrars would be punished in addition to those marrying minors. The approval of the law followed the release of UN children's agency report which shows [UN News Centre report] that two-thirds of Bangladeshi girls marry before reaching adulthood. According to the agency, the country has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world.