Marriage Practices in an Urban Slum: Vulnerability, Challenges to Traditional Arrangements and Resistance by Adolescent Women in Dhaka, Bangladesh

31 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2008

Date Written: August 1, 2006

Abstract

Compared to Southeast Asia, Dhaka city represents an apparent anomaly: a rapidly growing metropolis with relatively little change in early marriage practices, with 51 percent of 15-19 year-old females in 2000 already married. The rapid influx of rural poor families to Dhaka has led to a rapid increase in urban population growth, slum settlements and worsening poverty. Ethnographic fieldwork among married adolescent girls, aged 15-19, was carried out in a Dhaka slum from December 2001 to January 2003, including 50 in-depth interviews, 8 case studies from among 153 married adolescent girls, and observations and discussions with family and community. Informed by critical medical anthropology [1], this paper is about how early marriage practices and marital instability in an urban slum in Dhaka are grounded in the social, political and economic structures of their lives. A climate of poverty, violence and insecurity encourage early marriage practices and incidents of coerced marriages. Lawlessness, fears of sexual harassment and gang wars are a motivating factor for many families. In addition, the incentive to pay smaller dowries for poor families especially if their daughter is younger is also a motivating factor. While urbanization and the advent of the garment industry has increased employment opportunities and options for young girls, this has also led to a shift in traditional marriage arrangements, with greater incidence of love marriages, without parental permission at times. Incidents of young women resisting marriages organised by parents highlight a shift in parental authority as increasingly girls who work assert their agency, preferring to select and choose their own partners. The reasons for early marriage in a slum are shaped increasingly by structural and social inequalities which compel families and young women to make choices and trade-offs in order to survive in the difficult environment.

[1] Disease is understood to be social as well as biological, and there is a focus on the links between disease and social class, poverty, power and ill health, i.e. the political economy of health.

Keywords: early marriage, insecurity, resistance, adolescent women, ethnography, Bangladesh

Suggested Citation

Rashid, Sabina Faiz, Marriage Practices in an Urban Slum: Vulnerability, Challenges to Traditional Arrangements and Resistance by Adolescent Women in Dhaka, Bangladesh (August 1, 2006). Asia Research Institute Working Paper No. 72. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1317159 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1317159

Sabina Faiz Rashid (Contact Author)

BRAC University ( email )

66 Mohakhali C/A
Dhaka 1212 Bangladesh
Dhaka, 1212
Bangladesh

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
184
Abstract Views
1,225
rank
172,162
PlumX Metrics