Teen Brides, Migrant Husbands and Religious Schooling
An Analysis of Young Women’s Experiences of Marriage and Schooling in Rural Bangladesh
In many Muslim communities across South Asia, children and adolescents access education through religious institutions such as madrassa. When analysing the impact of madrassa on gender equity and empowerment, many scholars downplay feminist criticism of these institutions on the basis that even non-religious schools promote traditional gender roles in the global south. Some research on Bangladesh explains that ‘modernised’ or government-recognised madrassa, where students learn secular academic topics in addition to Arabic and Quranic verses, help boost female educational attainment in conservative communities. In addition, scholars often resist criticism of madrassa and other local practices such as early marriage in the name of understanding non-Western norms and ideals. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in remote villages of northern Bangladesh, this paper analyses the impact of religious schooling on young women’s everyday lives and perspectives through the experiences of young brides who are married to labour migrant men. Some of these brides have attended secular school while others have attended traditional madrassa, and I attempt to understand how their educational backgrounds have informed their views on marriage and gender roles. In this article, I contest the claim that religious schooling and early marriage can facilitate rural women’s agency. I argue that advocating for modernised madrassa is problematic, unless the conflicting impacts of unrecognised/traditional madrassa on women’s agency are acknowledged.
Copyright (c) 2022 Marzana Kamal
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