‘Game-changer’ phone app aims to end child marriage in Bangladesh

(Shutterstock image)
Updated 07 May 2018
0

‘Game-changer’ phone app aims to end child marriage in Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.
  • Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.

LONDON: A new phone app could be a “game-changer” in the fight against child marriage in Bangladesh, where more than half of all girls are married before they are 18, children’s charity Plan International said on Monday.
The impoverished South Asian nation has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, according to UNICEF, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.
The mobile app being rolled out by Plan and the Bangladesh government aims to prevent it by allowing matchmakers, priests and officers who register marriages to verify the bride and groom’s ages through a digital database.
“If we could get the people involved in the initial stages of marriage on side as well, then there would be no one to solemnize, no one to register and no one to arrange a marriage for a child,” said Soumya Guha, a director at Plan Bangladesh.
“The app could be the game-changer that we need,” he said, adding that it stopped 3,750 underage marriages during a six-month trial.
Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.
The app, which has an offline text messaging version for rural areas, gives the user access to a database that stores a unique identification number linked to the three documents.
When one of the numbers is entered, it shows “proceed” if the person is of legal age and a red “warning!” if not.
All marriages in Bangladesh must be legally registered within 30 days of the ceremony, but many are not.
A hard copy of a birth certificate, school leaving document or national identity card works as age proof, but often parents who want to marry off their children often forge them.
The charity is training 100,000 officiants about the ill effects of child marriage and how to use the app, which it hopes to roll out nationally by August.
“I believe this app will help us achieve the commitment by our honorable prime minister to eliminate child marriage before 2041,” Muhammad Abdul Halim, a director general at the prime minister’s office, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
However, Supreme Court lawyer Sara Hossain said more needed to be done to educate girls about their right to consent and plug legal loopholes.
“People might just avoid the registration because it is not required for validity of marriage and there is only a minor penalty for not registering. It’s not a big thing,” Hossain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We would be mistaken to think that something like this will be a magic bullet solution.” 


Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

Engineers and researchers at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology display the payload they have developed after months of painstaking research and testing. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2018
0

Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

  • The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017,
  • Under the agreement, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space censoring system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.

JEDDAH: Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, "particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science."
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
"The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a compact payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cu.cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite," the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment is capable of taking photos from different angles and altitudes that varies according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
"Saudi Arabia's taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field," he said.