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Bangladesh has recently reformed the law related to child marriage from the previous Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929) to the new Child Marriage Restraint Act (2017). Even though the 1929 provision for the legal age of marriage at 18 years for females and 21 years for males has been retained, a new provision has been inserted in the new Act permitting child marriage beneath the legal age of marriage under special circumstances with the consent of parents and with the permission of court. In contrast to the 1929 law which criminalized marriage of minors, the reformed law allows a child to be married off by its parents or guardians with the permission of the court at any age without safeguards or special circumstances ensuring the protection of the child. The new existing law is clearly a step backwards from the old law. The government of Bangladesh has argued that it had no alternative but to keep the special provision considering the socio-economic reality, especially in rural areas, where children are married at a young age. However, such argument has no specific illustration in the Act as to when it can be justified. This paper will argue that the deviation in the new law has legal ramifications in the light of the Bangladesh Constitution, some relevant national laws, and international human rights standards. In particular the new law is in conflict with many human rights standards found in these other laws. Additionally, the paper provides solutions for mitigating such adverse consequences.
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