"Our Voice, Our Rights" roundtable discussion - Bangladesh

On 3rd May, 2017 a roundtable discussion session named ‘Our Voice, Our Rights’ was held by the Youth for Change (YFC) Bangladesh country panel and Young Change Makers Coalition (YCMC) in Bangladesh at The Daily Star Centre in the capital.

Participants at the rountable

Participants at the rountable

The topic of the discussion was the special provision of Child Marriage Restraint Act-2017 and its implications and effects. Kazi Reazul Hoque, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) adorned the program as chief guest. The special guests were Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra; Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical advisor of UNDP and Tania Nusrat Zaman, head of child rights and protection at Plan International Bangladesh. The discussion session was chaired by Ayesha, a country panel member of Youth for Change Bangladesh and moderated by Mohammad Shazed, a member of the YCMC.

67 youth participants took part in this discussion session and each of them shared their views regarding the topic. The vulnerability of act numbers 10, 16 and 19 were given special attention in the discussion.

Most of the speakers have showed fear of the misuse of the special provision in the rural areas. The chief guest commented that the scope of misusing the act's special provision is likely to increase because it allows ‘guardians’ in absence of parents to marry off their children. Sharmeela Rasool suggested that norms-based advocacy should be done to encounter the problems that arise because of this act and also posed importance to the monitoring process.

There were many suggestions and opinions put forward by the young participants. Sadia from SERAC-Bangladesh claimed that many people have misconceptions about this law which is making the situation more complicated. The participants expressed concerns that the law states several penalties and punishments but those are not seen in practice. Involvement of youths in law-making procedures was urged by the young participants. Special Guest Sheepa Hafiza requested everyone to own the community rather than depending on various other projects or organizations. Tania Nusrat Zaman from Plan International gave importance on the use of technology in preventing child marriage. The digitalization of the birth certification process was also given special importance in the discussion.

Just before the end of the session, the honourable chairman of the NHRC expressed his interest in working with the youths more and he invited two youths in the next CR committee meeting at the NHRC. He also promised to ensure youth participation in the coming events regarding this topic.