Abdullah Al Muyid:
When I see an expectant mother, unlike everyone else who usually gets excited, I feel numbed and a chill going down my spine.
I can vividly remember one pitch black night; we were on a three-wheeler Tuktuk (we used to call those tempos), my maternal grandparents, my mom, one of my uncles and one of my aunts and a newborn baby. We were all sitting on the bench style seats except my aunt; she was lying on the floor wrapped in a bed-sheet. My mother was trying to comfort the newborn while my grandma was holding me tightly, so that I don’t remove the shroud that covered my aunt. I was six at that time; we were on our way from district hospital to our village, a place dimly lit by kerosene lamps then and now.
Her name was Kajol (black eye liner), we lost her, in one journey to that hospital, many miles away from that quiet little village without any medical facility, and we could not save her. For many years I could not even think of fathering a child and put someone at risk. I always thought there are enough babies in this world and enough mothers have already risked their lives.
Now that Bangladesh, as a State has enacted a law that will allow minors to be married even before they reach the legal minimum age (female 18 & male 21) under a so called “special provision”; which means that child-marriage is no longer illegal. It sent a chill down my spine, but only this time I felt cursing those sitting in the parliament.
I understand the need for replenishing the supply of cheap labour for an economy like ours – the way workers are crushed to produce surplus, ensures that they go out of productivity at a very early age and the gap need to filled in quickly, to maintain the surplus accumulation process. While the population pays for reproduction of labour/workers, the State has not taken any direct responsibility of the creators of the new workers. Rather the state investment in reproductive economy has been all but absent.
While maternal mortality ratio in Bangladesh in 2015 stood at 176 per 100,000 (Joint database of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group, and the United Nations Population Division); UNICEF in their global report for 2015 stated that already 65% of the girls are married off before they reach the legal marriage age of 18. And if this is not enough then bear in mind that the same report also noted that 29% are married by the age of 15.
Wala, fiesta for vultures (state sponsored) … Now that the state has created a legal safeguard, it is likely to increase the legally conducted child marriage under so called ‘special provision.’
Great… since in Bangladesh we love to compare our feats with other countries in South Asia, let me pick Sri Lanka for comparison; in that country 12% girls are married by the age of 18 and 2% are by the age of 15; maternal mortality ratio is 30, almost 6 times lower than in Bangladesh. Expectant mothers receiving prenatal care is around 64% in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka it stood at 99.4%.
She, my aunt, died of Eclampsia, a critical and potentially life threatening condition, which needs immediate high-level maternity facility to save life.
Now, tell me how many such facilities are there in the countryside where these child-mothers will be risking their lives to produce workers for tomorrow and for the benefit of state and capital?
The baby died after three weeks, no worker was created and a worker died in the process… the billion-dollar state corporation need not to know this,
But I lost my Kajol-Maa, who was that close to me.
I curse those standing in the Parliament with their heads high and trousers down… go to hell
Abdullah Al Muyid is currently participating in the Global Labour University (GLU) program at the Pennsylvania State University. He is an economics graduate and for past 11 years worked as a journalist and in the development field. His most recent involvement was with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh focused on improving working conditions in the ready-made garment industry. Currently he is working with Prof Mark Anner as a research assistant, working on apparel trade in global supply chain related issues. He plans to widen his understanding of labour under neoliberal structure.