Reason of early Marriage among the urban poor:
Study on urban slums in Dhaka
Masters of Development Studies
North South University
Bangladesh’s socio-cultural environment contains persistent gender discrimination,
therefore girls and women face many obstacles to their development. Girls are often
considered to be financial burdens on their family, and from the time of birth, they
receive less investment in their health, care and education. With the beginning of
teenage years, differences in the ways that adolescent girls and boys are treated
become much more pronounced. Adolescence is not viewed as a distinct phase of life;
instead, the onset of physical maturity is seen as an abrupt shift from childhood to
adulthood. At teenage years, girls’ mobility is often restricted, which limits their access
to livelihood, learning, recreational, and social activities. Bangladesh’s rates of child
marriage and adolescent motherhood are among the highest in the world.1
On the other hand, early marriage resembles fatal diseases in developing countries like
Bangladesh, though many nongovernmental organizations along with government are
trying hard to reduce the rate. Not only in rural areas but also in the urban slums are
highly affected by this inclined virus. Parents are in most cases compelled to give
wedding their daughter because of intolerable poverty as well as insecurity. There are
high chances to be abused by awful people. According to the Demographic Health
Survey (DHS) of 2004, 46% of young girls aged between 15-19 years and 11% of girls
(aged 10-14 years) are married in Bangladesh (UNICEF 2006)2
. In another study, it was
found that, nearly 40 percent of women from 60 percent of the population in
developing countries marry before 18 years of age. Among these, approximately 40-50%
young girls in South Asia and South East Asia are married before they reach the age of
18 (Growing up Global 2005)3
. Number of recent studies have documented that early
marriage is negatively linked with health, education and economic outcomes (Jain and
Kurz, 2007; Mathur, Greene and Malhotra, 2003; Mensch, Singh and Casterline, 2005;
. Therefore giving marriage signifies security, protection and meaning of
financially relief. Before the age of 18 years is violation of a number of international
human rights conventions. Early marriage is more prevalent in developing countries,
1 UNICEF, Women and girls in Bangladesh, June 2010, p1
2 Paper 7, Nasheeba Selim, 2006: ‘Early Marriage in Bangladesh: An Examination of the Social Institutions and
3 Paper 7, Nasheeba Selim, 2006: ‘Early Marriage in Bangladesh: An Examination of the Social Institutions and
4 http://epc2010.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submissionId=100279, p1
particularly in the poorer rural sections of the community a study by Singh and Samara
This study addresses the key issues around the early marriage, which increase the rate,
age at marriage within the urban slums. Worldwide, poverty is a major cause, as well
therefore, of early marriage for many young girls under the age of 18. In many
traditional settings, poor families use the early marriage of daughters as a strategy for
reducing their own economic vulnerability, shifting the economic burden related to a
daughter’s care to the husband’s family. Therefore, Poverty is recognized as a major
deciding factor for early marriage of girls especially in poorer households. Where girls
are viewed as additional burden on family resources, they tend to be married off earlier
as a family survival strategy.
This paper is based on a qualitative and quantitative study undertaken with adolescent
girl in urban slums in Bangladesh that examined the fundamental causes of early
marriage among young girls.
This research was based on survey, case studies and secondary materials. In addition to
that, informal discussions have been carried out with the slum girls who are married and
parents who gave marriage to their girls to have a clear idea about them. The primary data
were collected through direct interview method by using a set of questions like, personal
information of the parents of married girls as well as themselves. We have gathered
though the interview their age during wedding, education before wedding, source of
income and level of income of their parents to explore the reason like what were the basic
issues that causes early marriages. This study draws data from one-month intervention
research on urban slum girls conducted in July 2012. The research was undertaken in one
slum area of Dhaka at Bosila, Shonamiyer Bosty. We chose this area because, Bosila is
relatively poor area and level of education is very low. In addition, many marriages in slum
areas take place between young girls. Bosila has a large number of slums.
5 Singh, S and Samara, R (1996) ‘Early marriage among women in developing countries’, in International Family
Planning Perspectives, vol. 22, issue 3, December 1996 :‘Early Marriage and Poverty, Exploring links for policy and
program development’, p8
Low income of household causes early marriage
Social insecurity causes early marriage in urban slums
Dropout of school causes early marriage
Superstition causes early marriage
Lack of awareness causes early marriage
It was 30 married girls and 30 parents of married girls. It was purposive sampling. We chose
deliberately the sample. Snowball sampling was also following to survey. We have walked
through the slum, the sample girls were selected based on availability of married women at
their homestead. Those girls age of getting married in 09 -17 years.
1. Demographic information
Demographic information consists of numeric data or statistics involving groups of people.
This is about people in particular areas includes such characteristics as age, education,
income, and gender. The prime source for demographic information is the survey in this
paper. We would like to analysis through the demographic information so that the
objective of the study makes clear to all. According to the data collation by survey
questionnaires age of during getting married, education level before getting married,
current profession of spouse, married girl’s parental house income and expenditure before
marriage have been demonstrated through different pie charts and bar chart.
The chart shows that the rate of early marriage at the age group of 16 to 17 years
considerably much higher than the other age groups (80 percent slum girls in this range).
Group C is large percentage than group A and B (A: 09-12, B: 13-15). Comparatively group
A is lower than group B, though the percentage of marriage at this group remains in a
remarkable number, 17 percent. From the pie chart, we can see that 3 percent of girls are
victimized of early marriage. The low rate clearly indicates that urban people are relatively
conscious about the bad impact of getting married at this range of early age group.
This bar chart indicates the level of education before getting married in the slum area of
Dhaka. We can see that girls in primary education have highest enrollment, which is
number of 13 compare to secondary and higher education. Secondary education level falls
significantly for those girls who living in slum areas, only 1 person. Similarly, the higher
secondary levels have no significant status; the number is zero in these two levels.
Therefore, this chart signifies that most of the girls are not literate. A few numbers of girls
had finished their primary education, but that is not satisfactory.
2. Parental information:
Family income per month
The chart demonstrates the group of A to D. Among these groups, A has the highest
percentage of income level per month, 57 %. Which is taka 2000 to 5000. Compare to that,
only 7 percent of parents had income range of 12 thousand to 15 thousand beside that,
merely 13 percents of parents earned range of 9 thousand to 11 thousand taka, which is
also very low. At the same time if we look at the group B that represents 6 thousand to
only 8 thousand taka is 23 percent. Therefore, a large number of families earn taka
2thousand to 8thousand. Which give so much pressure them to reduce their financial
burden in any way. Therefore, girls have to suffer for this.
This chart indicates that only 7 percent of family had spend taka 5 to 6 thousand according
to their per month income. However, most of the family had to spend beyond their
income. They were bound to cross their income level. Where we have seen in the previous
chat that a large number of family earn only 2 to 8 thousand taka per month, they are
forced to borrow money to lead their family. Therefore, it is now clear that they would like
to adjust their expenditure with their family income.
It has been conducted to depict the causes, which cannot analyze through chart or table or
any numerical numbers. Only quantities data can analyze by using chart.
Salma Rani is 2o-year-old woman, living in an urban slum in Dhaka
city. Before getting married, she lived with her parents in another
slum area in Dhaka city. They were 5 members in their family. Her
father was sole earner in their family. He was a rickshaw puller. Her
mother was a homemaker. She was elder among her siblings. Her
siblings were too younger than she was. Slama was the only child
was studying. Because, her parents could not afford other’s study
cost. Her parents used to see in their dream that she would be a
schoolteacher and enlighten the society. However, reality was not
in their favor. Life is not like cinema that we are used to watch in
television and entertain us.
She was passing though a hard time in her parent’s house at that time. Finally, situation
had forced her to get married. Salma went to school regularly next to her slum. However,
she was not secured at her pathway during going to school. She had got panic and
eventually got sick mentally. Some fearful people used to bully her continuously when she
went to school and back to her home. Situation was getting serious gradually. One of them
blackmailed her that they would kidnap her if she would not agree to make relation one of
them. Therefore her parents have had to give marriage her immediately to get rid of this
“Social insecurity was
the key factor to get
married earlier. I was
victimized of eve
teasing. Some terrified
was used to seduce me.
I was scared for their
Eventually my parents
stopped going to
school. Then life
became full of hell to
me. I was nothing to do,
Living with uncertainty
Momena Khatun was third child among four in her family. 13-year-
old Momena wanted to become a doctor. However, she got
married when she was 14. Now she is 18-year-old. Her elder
brother was sole earner in her parental family. His monthly income
was only 7 thousand taka. Her father could not physically able to
earn money for their family. Therefore, it was difficult for her
father to support financially. She had to stop her going to school
for their financial problem.
Momena became unexpected for her family only for their lower
income rate. Her elder brother did not give them financial support every month. Because,
he had spent his money to his wife regularly. Some times Momena and her family was
starving without food. It was very common in her parental family. Momena was forced to
get married earlier for these reasons.
Majibar Rahman is 60-year-old, living in Bosila slumm in
Dhaka. He is a rickshaw puller, earns 4 to 5 thousand taka
per month. He has four children; three daughters (elder
one has been married) and one son. It is so much harder to
lead a family with only 5thousand taka in a month. He is
migrated from northern part of Bangladesh. He has come
to Dhaka for being better than his past. However, reality
contradicts to his plan. He has to live is slum area.
He thought money does not matter in Dhaka. It flies in the
sky, just need to know the technique to catch it. Anyway,
his elder daughter had to victimize badly for cruel this
reality. He thought because of his financial crisis that
marriage could give her daughter a better life financially and protect socially from any
inconvenience. As well as, it would reduce his financial burden a bit.
Misery of Momena Khatun
Reality does not match with dream
“If my father could earn I would
not have to get married possibly.
I said possibly, because lower
income was not the only key
issue for that I got married. My
living place was not secured for
me. So many times, I had to
victimize of eve teasing.
Including that, my father’s
physical condition was not good.
He might die anytime, so my
elder brother wanted me to get
married immediately, said
“I had no way without
giving marriage of my
elder daughter at the
very early age at that
time. I could not
maintain my family
with this too low-
income rate. Including
social insecurity was
an issue, said Majibar.”
Mr. Hossain Miya is a day laborer, works in daily basis at Dhaka city. He earns 5 to 6
thousand taka per month. It is not sufficient for his
family to live better in this costly city. He has three
children in his family. Therefore, it is burden for him to
lead in this earning. In addition, it is not a fixed income.
Every day he cannot get the work to do, someday he
and his family have to starving. He lives in a slum.
Hossain has one daughter name Shely. Shely was only
14 at that time. Hossain had taken a decision to give
marriage her daughter because of his too low income.
His monthly income was so uncertain so his family was
not secured financially and they all are having health hazards. Anyway, 3 years ago Hossain
had arranged a marriage for her daughter. Shely did not agree but she was force-d to his
Characteristics of Control variables in our study
We have collected data of 21 samples to compare with the early-married girls. We wanted
to find out the reason, therefore went to the same slum and gathered some information on
two issues. Let us see below:
Number of girls going to school Income level of their family
Number of girls unmarried age
between 13 to 18 above
Income level of their family
Hossain Miya and his family
“I had no money at that time
in my hand. However, god
saved me; parents of
bridegroom did not offer
anything in this marriage. I
could not any security to my
daughter. She was too
adorable to me. However,
financially I could give her
protection. As well as, socially,
because the slum’s
environment is not good, said
We can see from these two tables that higher income level ensures the financial security
for a girl. Parents do not give them marriage and they can go to the school. In both table
we can see that who have 16 thousand taka monthly income they send their daughters to
the school and do not give marriage. Compare to this that have 7thousand 5hundred taka
monthly income they are in vulnerable condition. In most cases, they have to give marriage
their daughters. Therefore, the ration is too low.
Current Profession of spouse:
According to the- pie chart, 67 percent of married girls and their husbands are working as
maidservant or house cleaner and day laborer. We can see the girls in garments sector is
only 20 percent, where most of the girls are in household work as maidservant. Only 13
percent of girls can stay their home but they are not willingly staying their home. Only
because of their kids, they are compelled to stay at home to look after their children. This
study found only two professions, house cleaner and garments worker. These girls have no
other option to work in another place. As most of the husbands are day labor, they have to
find work for their financial support or security. We have drawn this chart to demonstrate
that, parents are used to think marriage can give financial protection beside social security
as well as it reduces the economic load of their family. However, to analyze this chart we
can see that, to be financially secured girls have to work for different places like house as
servant, garments as workers and so on.
Everyone both parents and married girls said that the environment of the slum is horrible
and unsecured for a young girl.
Age of the girls before getting married
The respondents were young in the age group of 9 to 17 years.
Educational background of the married girls
A large number of respondents were illiterate.
Occupation of the married girls
Most of the girls are working as house cleaner and garments workers.
Monthly household income of married girl’s family earner during their marriage
The data shows that many of the respondents belonged to poor economic group.
Monthly household income of their family ranged between Taka 2 to 10 thousand.
No one has television access in his or her home. Everyone leads very vulnerable life
therefore; they do not have ability to afford a television. For that, they cannot get the
Most of the girls have too many siblings, therefore their parents had to decide to give
marriage earlier to reduce family burden.
Reason behind arranging marriage
Among 30 parents, 25 said that insecurity as well as low income is the root cause of
coming up decision to give marriage of their daughters.
Parent’s opinion on early marriage
If their per month income would be at least 15 thousand and children would two,
daughter was only then they might not take this decision.
Hypothesis of evidence has been found that early marriage take places mainly because of
low income and social insecurity. Therefore, the first two hypnosis of the study have been
proved. Nevertheless, no evidence has been found to proof the other three hypotheses,
drop out of school, superstition and lack of awareness.
Urban slums should be settled in a secured place where they can lead their life
with security and self-respect.
NGOs and government should ensure the employment of slum dwellers
The social security of women in slum areas should be ensured to include them in
the working force.
Moral awareness programs can be taken among the slum males to change their
outlook towards women.
Early marriage cannot eliminate overnight. Many social factors are highly responsible for
this. Urban slums are basket of problems in Dhaka city. Not only NGOs, government
should take serious measure to solve their hazardous problems. They are in danger and
most vulnerable condition from every angle.
2. Naana Otoo-Oyortey and Sonita Pobi, 2003: ‘Early Marriage and Poverty, Exploring links for
policy and programme development’:
3. Marital Status of Women in Slum Areas of Dhaka City: http://www.dwatch-
4. Paper 7, Nasheeba Selim, 2006: ‘Early Marriage in Bangladesh: An Examination of the Social
Institutions and Processes, http://www.bracresearch.org/monographs/mono_31.pdf
6. Women and girls in Bangladesh: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928105/
Survey Questionnaire for socioeconomic information
Visit -------- 2nd Visit-------- 3rd
0: No one at home 1: Contact but survey not completed 2: Survey refused/could not find
3: Survey completed
Name of slum area________________
Region_____________________ Ward no_____________________
A. Personal information of respondent
Interview of respondent:
Now, I would like to ask you a few questions about your family and household
Please remember that this information will remain anonymous.
1. How old are you now? _______________
2. In which age have you got married?____________
a. 09-12 b. 13-15 c. 16-17
3. How many kids do you have? ____________________
4. How long have you given birth your first child after getting
5. Do you have television access at your home? Yes/No
(If Yes, please fill out question 10)
6. Did you see soap opera and advertise on against early marriage, complications
during pregnancy before getting married?
7. Who had arranged your wedding? ____________________
8. Before getting married in your parent’s house; who had earned money? a.
Father b. Brother c. Mother
9. What did your father do?__________________
10. What was your family’s earner’s profession? ______________________
11. Except father, was there anyone who was khana leader?____________________
12. Who was your family’s khana leader?_________________________
13. What was your family’s per capita income per month? _______________
14. What was your family’s monthly expenditure? _________________
15. At that time how many member do you had in your family?
16. How many siblings do you have?_________________________
17. Why have you got married before 18 years old?(girl) _________________
18. What did you do before getting married? _____________________
19. What was your menu of meal? ___________________________
20. How have done your wedding? _______________________________________
B. Survey Questionnaire:
Education level of spouse
1. What is the level of education that you have completed?
a. Primary (class 1 to 5) b.Secondary (class 6 to 10) c. Higher Secondary (class 11 to 12)
d. Tertiary e. No answer
2. What is the level of education that your husband has completed?
a. Primary (class 1 to 5) b.Secondary (class 6 to 10) c. Higher Secondary (class 11 to 12)
d. Tertiary e. No answer
3. What is your income source?_________________________
4. Do you participate in your family income now?________________
C. Parent’s questionnaire:
1. Why had you arranged marriage of your
2. Had felt insecurity about your
3. Do you know the exact age of marriage?
4. Did your daughter agree with you to get
5. How many kids do you have?
6. If you would have only daughter, would you give
7. What do you do?___________________________________________
8. What is your income source?___________________________________
9. Your monthly and yearly income?____________________
10. Except the mentioned income, do you have another