[JURIST] Bangladesh officials on Monday approved the Child Marriage Prevention Act of 2014, a law that sets a two year jail term for any person who marries a girl under the age of 18. The law, which was approved [bdnews24 report] during a Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [JURIST news archive], sets the minimum age of marriage for men at 21 and and for women at 18. Cabinet Secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan stated [AFP report] that while women who violated 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 goal is not to jail people, Bhuiyan said, but “to prevent people from this bad practice.” The law closely follows the release of a report published by the UN children’s agency which shows [UN News Centre report] that two-thirds of Bangladeshi girls marry before reaching adulthood.
Political tension has increased in Bangladesh since January when the country’s Nationalist Party boycotted the election that returned Hasina to power. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch announced [JURIST report] that the Bangladesh government should abolish a recently enacted policy that restricts the media’s freedom of expression. In June a Bangladesh court sentenced [JURIST report] eight people to death and six others to life imprisonment in connection with a 2001 Bengali New Year’s celebration bombing that killed ten people. In April Bangladesh’s High Court ordered [JURIST report] former prime minister Khaleda Zia to stand trial on corruption charges, accusing her and three other members of the opposition Nationalist Party of embezzling funds from a charitable trust named after Zia’s deceased husband, former president Ziaur Rahman. In March Bangladeshi investigators moved [JURIST report] the government to ban Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami for its alleged involvement in war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. In January a Bangladeshi court sentenced [JURIST report] 14 men to death for their involvement in a 2004 arms smuggling operation. Among those sentenced was the leader of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, a former deputy interior minister and a former director general of the National Security Intelligence.