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Despite government’s prohibition, child marriage is still prevailing at tea gardens resulting in violence against girl children, their health complications and other social nuisance.
Poverty, lack of awareness and illiteracy are the major reasons for child marriage across the tea estates of the country. Parents think it is their duty to marry off their girl child as early as possible.
“Although I wanted to continue my studies, my parents forced me to stop study when I was in Class-V, and despite my unwillingness, they married me off at the age of 14,” said Swapna Bhouri, a worker of Debolchara tea garden under Kamalganj upazila of Moulavibazar.
“Since she is a female child, we had to marry her off. So, the sooner we do it, the better it is for us,” said Shupal Bawri, a worker of Rajanagar tea garden in Kulaura upazila.
“We have to struggle hard to maintain families with our poor earnings. Our family maintenance cost becomes higher as a girl child grows. So, it is important to marry her off soon,” he said, adding, “It is better for us on one hand, and better for the girl on the other.”
But Shupal did not know that marrying his daughter off at an early age would make her suffer rather than making her happy.
Apart from health complications, many girl children, who get married at early an age, are tortured for their inexperience by their husbands and other family members in their in-law’s house, and even get divorced after few years of marriage.
Seeking anonymity, a 22-year woman working at Shishel Bari tea garden in Srimongol upazila, said she got married at the age of 15. There was no trouble in first two years of their conjugal life. Later, her husband started torturing her bringing different allegations like extra marital affairs, inefficiency in conducting household chores and so on.
“Now, he (the husband) does not like me and has become addicted to other women. He now wants to divorce me. What will I do, if I get divorced now?” she said.
Madhobi Ghatuar, a female worker in Debol Chara tea garden under Kamolganj, however, said, “Age is not any factor to marry off a girl. Whenever a girl seems physically mature in her outlook, she can be married off.”
School teachers of those localities, people’s representatives of local government institutions and people of other conscious sections of the community stressed the need for expansion of education and awareness campaign to check child marriage.
“The message of bad consequences of child marriage should be disseminated massively among the people,” said Sattya Narayan Naydoo, a teacher of Saanchorra Primary School located at Debolchara tea garden under Kamolganj upazila.