As many as two thirds of marriages which took place in Bangladesh during 2015 were technically illegal.
That year, more than two million marriages took place in the country according to the Bangladeshi Bureau of Statistics. However, only 721,142 of them were officially registered with the Law Ministry.
In the south Asian nation, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce (Registration) Act 1974 allows anyone to officiate a marriage, but the bride and groom must register with a licenced registrar within 30 days of the ceremony to be legally recognised.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, human rights barrister Jyotirmoy Barua said the law clearly states that “someone who is not licenced cannot register a marriage” but he suggested that the government could “instruct these people to be registered properly”.
In fact, Bangladeshi policy makers are looking at ways to do just that. Following a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office, high level officials have instructed local districts to make a database of people in their area who perform marriage ceremonies but are not licenced to register them with the government. Local authorities were also asked to provide training for such people. These steps have been taken in order to bring transparency and accountability to the procedure, government officials have claimed.
An investigation has also been ordered to discover why so many people choose not to use licenced registrars when they marry.
Last year, human rights groups criticised a proposed bill to deal with the problem of child marriage as “wrongheaded” as it would punish victims rather than help them.