Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Horrifying statistics that link child marriage in Bangladesh to climate crisis

IRC says as many as 22 per cent of all girls in Bangladesh are being married off before age of 15

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 07 December 2023 15:38 GMT
Related: Landmark IPPC report reveals scale of the climate crisis

Bangladesh has seen a staggering 39 per cent surge in child marriages in disaster-prone and vulnerable coastal regions due to the climate crisis, according to a recent assessment.

The humanitarian aid organisation International Rescue Committee (IRC) on Wednesday revealed that climate crisis-induced disasters have forced coastal communities facing extreme poverty to migrate, leading to increased gender-based violence, limited access to education, and increased food security challenges.

It said the rapid rise in child marriages could be directly attributed to the increase in disasters such as flooding and cyclones over the last two decades.

Half of all girls in Bangladesh are now married before turning 18, while at least 22 per cent of them were married before the age of 15, the organisation said, adding that girls living in coastal areas were more vulnerable.

The legal age of marriage for women is 18 in Bangladesh and child marriages are prohibited under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017.

“This situation is, however, more volatile for the girls living in coastal areas, who are facing food insecurity and poverty, irregular rain patterns, rising temperatures, and heightened frequency and intensity of disasters,” said Hasina Rahman, director of IRC Bangladesh.

The multi-layered crisis, she suggested, should be addressed by improving access to education for girls in climate-vulnerable communities that would act as a barrier against girls becoming child brides.

At least 86 per cent of young girls face an increased workload post natural disasters, reducing their time for studies.

“Moreover, extreme poverty in this region affects children’s enrollment rates in educational institutes. Inadequate numbers of qualified teachers, poor transportation networks, and the use of schools as shelters during disasters disrupt educational services,” she added.

The IRC has called on the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh to establish a formal reporting mechanism for child abuse and exploitation along with the establishment of child-friendly spaces accessible within communities.

South Asia is home to the highest number of child brides in the world due to increased financial pressures and school closures, according to the UN.

Previously, a report in October by Save the Children found nearly 40 million girls were at risk of being forced into child marriage by 2050.

While an estimated 29.9 million adolescent girls reside in countries where the risks of both early marriage and life-changing climate disasters are highest, this number is expected to increase by about 33 per cent.

Nations in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, Chad, and Guinea, which are highly vulnerable to climate crisis and already reeling under mounting impacts, are going to be most severely impacted, it said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in