Special Circumstances Provision: A Loophole in CMRA-2017

The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 (CMRA-2017) was passed in Bangladesh to curb the practice of child marriage, which continues to be a pervasive issue in the country. However, there are concerns about the special circumstances provision in the law, which allows marriages of girls below 18 years in certain situations. This provision raises questions about the effectiveness of the law and its impact on gender equality.

The special circumstances provision in CMRA-2017 allows marriage of girls under 18 years in “special circumstances” with the permission of the court. These circumstances include instances where the girl is pregnant, or where there is a likelihood of harm to the girl or her family if the marriage does not take place. While the provision aims to protect vulnerable girls, it also opens the door for abuse and exploitation, as families may use it as an excuse to marry off their daughters at a young age.

The provision also undermines the efforts to eliminate child marriage in Bangladesh. The government and civil society organizations have been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the harms of child marriage and promote gender equality. However, the special circumstances provision sends a mixed message about the government’s commitment to these efforts. It suggests that child marriage is acceptable in some situations, which contradicts the message that child marriage is always harmful to girls and violates their rights.

Furthermore, the provision reinforces gender inequalities and stereotypes. It assumes that girls are not capable of making decisions about their own lives and bodies, and that marriage is the only solution to their problems. This attitude perpetuates the idea that girls are inferior to boys and reinforces patriarchal norms that limit their opportunities and freedoms.

To address these concerns, there is a need to review and revise the special circumstances provision in CMRA-2017. The provision should be amended to ensure that girls’ rights are protected and that they are not forced into marriage against their will. The government should also strengthen its efforts to promote gender equality and eliminate child marriage, including by investing in education and empowering girls to make informed decisions about their own lives.

In conclusion, while the CMRA-2017 is a step towards ending child marriage in Bangladesh, the special circumstances provision undermines its effectiveness and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. It is crucial that the government takes steps to address this provision and promote a gender-responsive criminal justice system that protects the rights of girls and promotes gender equality.


  1. Towards a gender-responsive criminal justice system; Prothom Alo [Mar 17, 2023]
  2. Are we validating child marriage through ‘Special Circumstances’ provision?; Daily Star [Oct 29, 2022]
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