Previously the word ‘কুমারী’ (virgin) was part of question 5 of Bangladesh’s standardised Muslim marriage contract. The question asked whether the bride is a virgin, divorcee or widow. The high court directed the government to remove the word and use the word ‘অবিবাহিত’, unmarried, instead.
Previous Muslim marriage contract
The first question of the marriage contract or nikka form is about the address and the name of the ward in which the marriage is taking place. The second question and third question are about the name of the groom and groom’s parents and his age. The fourth line is to fill in the bride’s name and parental details. The fifth asks “konna kumari, bidhoba, othoba talak prapto ki na?” Then, one notes the brides age.
Some English versions of the marriage contract would translate kumari to maiden instead of virgin. Unmarried will now be the accurate translation.
Steps towards equality
This change came about as part of a joint effort between BLAST, Naripokkho and Mohila Porishod. They had filed the writ petition with the High Court in 2014 challenging the legality of number five column in the marriage contract or Kabinnama.
This is a step towards bringing equality into our law and life. This is also a move away from the culture of misogyny that permeates society.
The court did not make any directives towards the usage of the words ‘divorcee’ and ‘widower’ from the form. These words are unnecessarily discriminatory and cause privacy concerns. However, the ruling included a new item so that the groom is asked whether he is unmarried, divorced or a widower.
Like our content? Follow us on our Facebook page for regular updates. We want to hear from you. Take a moment to write to us with your stories, contributions and suggestion. Contact us for advertising and partnership opportunities at [email protected] Thank you!
We say that we want to be supportive and we want to help the women in our lives overcome obstacles. But at the same time, we want to shut down discussions about topics like teenage pregnancy. There is a reluctance to broach taboo topics and we want to save ourselves from all the backlash that follows. However, this is not an issue that will go away if we put our head in the sand.
It is time we stop being afraid of society; we need start being afraid of the repercussions we will will inevitably face as a society if we continue to ignore sensitive topics.
So, who are are the ones facing teenage pregnancy issues? Teenage pregnancy issues are felt by young women–married or unmarried. They are either sexually active, they plan on being sexually involved in the future or are currently pregnant.
What the problems that sexually active women have to overcome?
Protection is inaccessible
Well for starters, women fear social stigma and fear people finding out about their choice to be sexually active.This fear makes men and women so afraid of society that they feel hesitant to buy protection before engaging in intercourse. Women are afraid of being so they avoid going to the store to buy condoms. Condoms, one of the most accessible methods of protection, becomes inaccessible to women. This leads to men and women engaging in unsafe sex and putting themselves at a risk of STDs,
Lack of knowledge
The problems don’t end there. Most young women in Bangladesh do not know how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They do not how to get protection and what kinds of protection are available. They are also unaware of the signs that their body displays when they are pregnant. The stigma is so ingrained in their minds that buying a pregnancy test is almost impossible. They end up not even taking the test and going into a sudden panic attack when the baby bump starts to show.
The vicious cycle that is being driven by social stigma goes beyond shaming and creating conditions where misinformation is rampant.
Society ignores sex, but what about happens after? Society also stigmatizes abortion. Most teenage women in Bangladesh are unaware of the steps that could be taken after unprotected intercourse. Steps include things like morning-after pills or going to the doctor during early pregnancy stages and getting an abortion.
Doctors are inaccessible
Teenagers fear society and their perception so much that they refuse to seek help from doctors. They think the doctor will violate confidentiality and tell their parents or hand them over to the police. This forces teenagers to suffer in silence from the traumatizing effects of teenage pregnancies. Young girls have to turn to random YouTube videos about how to conduct abortions on their own. Some young women go through the pregnancy; then they are traumatically forced to give up the child for adoption and spend the rest of their lives in shame. In the worst-case scenario, teenagers end up taking extreme alternatives like self-harm or suicide to avoid facing their parents or neighbors.
What options do teenagers have under such circumstances?
Get help. Teenage pregnancy can result in complications and even lead to death if the mother is not taken care of properly. If you think you might be pregnant, take the test. As much as we would love to say that you should find the courage for going to the stores and buying the test for yourself, we all know that it might not be possible for everyone to all of a sudden face all these stigmas at once. Resorting to online stores might be a good alternative. Many online shops have the option to order pregnancy tests that will be delivered within hours. Chaldal.com, Daraz, and bdfamilymart are a few examples of such websites from where you can buy a pregnancy test.
Go See a Doctor
In terms of contraceptives and morning-after pills, you could buy those too from online shops. But what is even more important than this is seeking help directly from doctors. Most doctors aren’t allowed to disclose the information of the patient to anyone other than the patient.
…Or, Opt for Online Healthcare
However, if you still don’t feel like you can trust them then you can always opt for online health care services like bdhealth services. But none of these solutions will work out if teenagers themselves don’t try to seek out help if teenagers don’t themselves seek out knowledge about maternal health and sex education.
What can we do as a society?
We can start being more inclusive. Changing our minds about sex is probably not going to happen in a day. But this is a change that is necessary for the better of the next generation. Even if we can’t find it in ourselves to be more accepting about sexual activeness of youth, we can at least try and not criticize sexual health for teenagers to a point that they feel like it is something they should be afraid of.
We as a society have to create an atmosphere where children learn about sexual health and teenage pregnancy during their early age.
Children need to be provided with sex ed and not just the generic version that only scratches the surface and does not get into details because of the social stigma. Comprehensive sex ed that includes lessons regarding how to take a pregnancy test or how to take contraceptives is what is required to help teenagers get better equipped about how to handle teenage pregnancy.