Married at birth: Bangladesh introduces new wedlock rules with no minimum age

A new loophole in the law could see girls married off under "special circumstances"(Getty)
A new loophole in the law could see girls married off under "special circumstances"(Getty)

Bangladesh has approved a new law which could see girls married as soon as they're born.

A new loophole in the "Child Marriage Restraint Act" would allow girls under the age of 18 to marry in "special circumstances," or for the "greater good". But the legislation provides room for interpretation, as concrete definitions for the umbrella terms don't exist. 

Girls Not Brides, a global movement aiming to prevent child marriage, says the law effectively means Bangladesh has a "zero minimum age of marriage".

The marriage must be approved by the courts and the minor's parents, but the child is not asked if they think it is in their best interest. The decision rests with their parents. 

The Government also claims an underage marriage may protect the honour of women who accidentally or unlawfully fall pregnant out of wedlock, regardless of the circumstances of their pregnancy.  

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has defended the law, saying a child born to a young parent would be outlawed in society - abortion is not an option either, unless the woman is in danger. 

The previous law allowed no exemptions for underage marriage, but it was largely ignored as 52 percent of girls under 18 were married, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. 

The Bangladesh wing of Girls Not Brides wants tighter definitions rather than loose terms, which could see the act abused. 

The group thinks there are "better ways to secure [a young girl's] future" rather than marrying them off for honour. 

But the outrage may be shortlived, as the legislation may not even go ahead. While the Government has approved it, President Abdul Hamid still has to sign it off before it can be put into action.