World Population Day and Bangladesh

World Population Day and Bangladesh

World Population Day & Bangladesh

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

World Population Day was observed by all nations including Bangladesh on July 11. This year the theme is Adolescent Pregnancy. There are about 500 million female adolescents in the world. About 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.

The vast majority – 90 per cent — of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice. Often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion.

Adolescent pregnancy is a health issue: the youngest mothers face a heightened risk of maternal complications, death and disability, including obstetric fistula. Their children face higher health-risks as well.

It is also an issue of human rights. Adolescent pregnancy often means an abrupt end of childhood, a curtailed education and lost opportunities.

On this World Population Day, the awareness of the issue of adolescent pregnancy was raised in the hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


On the Day, Bangladesh has organized seminars, focussing on all stakeholders the dangers of adolescent pregnancy. Media also highlighted the significance of the Day.

It is reported that about 64.3% of married adolescent girls become pregnant and 53.6% become mothers at the young age in the country. About 66% of young girls are married before they attain the age of 18. One –third of girls between the ages of 13-15 become pregnant. All these girls face not only their health-risks but also their babies. Statistics show about 50% of babies is born dead from young mothers.

Experts argue that often they are pressured to have child before they are physically, emotionally and socially mature enough to become mothers. The consequences of adolescent pregnancy reverberate throughout the girl’s life and carry over to her children and generations that follow. Adolescent mothers are at risk of maternal mortality and morbidity.

In Bangladesh contraceptives are used by 47% of girls between 15-19 years of age. Child marriage is the main cause in Bangladesh and there are economic and social reasons for child marriage in the country and some of them are as follows:

· Unemployment of parents

· Poverty

· Lack of personal security of adolescent girls

· Lack of easy access to family planning clinics

  • Maternal care before and after child birth

· Education and motivation of male partners.

· Acceptability in society of child marriage

Although Bangladesh has made notable progress in reduction of fertility, maternal mortality (194 out of 100,000 live births) and child mortality (35 out of 1000 live births) as reported by the Bangladesh Planning Commission on 7th July 2013 unless the above issues are adequately addressed, adolescent girls would be married by poor parents and it is too much to ask poor parents to delay the marriage of their adolescent girls. This is a reality on the ground.

Adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue. It is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalance between adolescent girls and male partners, lack of education, and failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights.

Breaking the cycle of adolescent pregnancy, experts suggest, requires commitment from government, communities and individuals in the country. National laws must be enforced strictly and in Bangladesh young girls at 18 and above are only eligible for marriage under law. Skilled birth attendants must be provided for countryside community health clinics which reportedly number about 12, 248 in the country.

Experts argue that for developing countries financial resources is one of the constraints. At the same lack of good governance and corruption allegedly undermine the efforts of the government to promote community-based efforts to prevent child marriage and its consequence.

Population control is a big challenge for the country. A Report from UK-based DFID in 2007 predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. The more population grows, the more agricultural lands are lost for human habitation. This is not a good scenario for Bangladesh where more than 1000 persons live in a square kilometer.

Another concern is the vanishing size of coastal islands of Bangladesh. It is reported that in 1965 Bhola comprised of about 3,970 square miles; it is now half of its original size. In the early 50’s Sandwip Island which was about 150 square miles has now shrunk to about 80 miles. Kutubdia, a small island in Cox’s Bazar has also been reduced to half of its size. Hatiya off the coast of Noakhali, has lost nearly one-fourth of its land area over the last 30 years.

By one estimate, Bangladesh is losing about 100 square kilometers to coastal and river erosion every year. River erosion is a problem which displaced about 6 million people each year. During the last decades, nearly 200,000 islanders displaced by erosion have fled to the mainland of Bangladesh.


The main objective of the observance of the World Population Day is to bring the public’s attention on the importance of population issues in the context of overall economic and social development.

The ideal is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. To this end, robust efforts must be made by all stakeholders including NGOs in providing adolescent girls good education, essential skills, information, knowledge, health services and promoting delayed marriage by partnering with family, community so that adolescent girls will be a force for change in their communities and generations to come.

Let there be a slogan “ No marriage before the age of 18 for girls and no child before 20 years of age.”

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