Bangladesh high court has ruled that Muslim brides are no longer required to declare whether they are virgin or not in their marriage certificate. The decision is being perceived as a landmark step towards gender equality.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Women were required to declare if they are virgin or not in their marriage certificates in Bangladesh.
  • A high court has ordered to change the ‘Kumari’ column in marriage certificate to ‘unmarried’.
  • Grooms are also required to declare their marital status now.
  • Bangladesh also stands fourth in the list of countries with the highest prevalence of Child Marriages. 

The court has ruled that the word ‘Kumari’ is to be replaced with ‘unmarried’.

‘Kumari’ Changed To Unmarried In The Marriage Certificate

Under Bangladesh’s Muslim marriage and divorce laws, a woman has to select one of the options out of Kumari (meaning virgin), Widow or Divorced, reports CNN. The court ruled that the word Kumari be replaced with unmarried. Activists have previously pointed out that the laws were discriminatory and a breached privacy for women getting married. Three rights groups had filed the petition against use of the term in 2014. The court hence ruled the aforementioned change, while the other two options will remain unchanged.

Moreover, the Bangladeshi grooms are now required to declare their marital status as unmarried, divorced or widowed on the certificate.

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High prevalence of child marriages

When Bangladesh court ruled in 2017, that girls below 18 years of age can be married if it is in their interest, it received flak from women’s rights groups. According to the  UNICEF global databases 2018, with 59 percent, Bangladesh stood at fourth position in the top 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriages in the world. The law doesn’t define any minimum age for the girl to marry, neither does it define clearly as to what the ‘best interests’ mean. Human Rights Watch had slammed the move, calling it a “devastating step backward for the fight against child marriage.”

As per the UN report published in June 2019, 22 percent of women are married below the age of 15 years in Bangladesh.

However, the country also shows some positive signs when it comes to women empowerment. According to the World Bank, it is among the few countries in South Asia where employment opportunities for women have increased. The country has also significantly reduced the wage gap. Quoting figures from an International Labour Organization (ILO) report last year, the Dhaka Tribune reported that gender wage gap in Bangladesh is the lowest in the globe, coming down to 2.2% in the year 2017, against the world average of 21.2%.

Picture Credit- Alamy

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