The nexus between extreme weather events, sexual violence, and early marriage: a study of vulnerable populations in Bangladesh

  • Khandaker Jafor Ahmed
  • Shah Md Atiqul HaqEmail author
  • Françoise Bartiaux
Original Paper


This study aims to explore whether a relationship exists between extreme weather events, sexual violence, and early marriage. We selected two districts in Bangladesh that are vulnerable to extreme weather events: Sunamganj, which experiences flash flooding, and Brahmanbaria, which experiences cyclones and related floods. Survey data was collected from 120 randomly selected household heads from two villages in these districts, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 40 household heads who indicated early marriage was a coping strategy for managing effects of weather events. The mixed-methods study finds that early marriage of daughters is a coping strategy for managing two negative consequences of extreme weather events. First, by minimizing household expenses, householders can pay for damage-related expenses. Second, unmarried daughters may be subject to sexual violence during a crisis, especially in temporary shelters, which would harm both the family’s and daughter’s reputation and prevent future marriage.


Bangladesh Early marriage Extreme weather events Poverty Sexual violence Vulnerable areas 



We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Editor of Population and Environment for her insightful suggestions and also thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. We also would like to express our heartiest thanks to the respondents who provided valuable information and helped us during fieldwork. We are also grateful to Professor Jean-Philippe Platteau (Emeritus, University of Namur, Belgium) who helped to articulate the research idea at its initial stage during the Global Development Network (GDN) workshop in 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey.


  1. Advancing Public Interest Trust (APIT). (2009). A study on change in women’s life after Sidr—based on a case study—OGB after Sidr 2007 in Bangladesh. Oxford: Oxfam Great Britain.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed, A. U. (1986). Marriage and its transition in Bangladesh. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 16(1), 49–59.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmed, F., Ahmad, N., Khan, M. A., Jolliffe, D., Mahbub, M. A., Sharif, l., Yoshida, N., Zaidi, S., Swaroop, V., & Zutt, J. (2010). Poverty maps of Bangladesh 2010 (vol. 2): technical report (English). Washington, DC: World Bank Group Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  4. Alston, M., Whittenbury, K., Haynes, A., & Godden, N. (2014). Are climate challenges reinforcing child and forced marriage and dowry as adaptation strategies in the context of Bangladesh? Women’s Studies International Forum, 47, 137–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Amin, S. (1998). Family structure and change in rural Bangladesh. Population Studies, 52(2), 201–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anik, S., & Khan, M. (2012). Climate change adaptation through local knowledge in the north eastern region of Bangladesh. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 17(8), 879–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Azad, A. K., Hossain, K. M., & Nasreen, M. (2013). Flood-induced vulnerabilities and problems encountered by women in northern Bangladesh. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 4(4), 190–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bajracharya, A., & Amin, S. (2012). Poverty, marriage timing, and transitions to adulthood in Nepal. Studies in Family Planning, 43(2), 79–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ballesteros, M. M. (2010). Linking poverty and the environment: evidence from slums in Philippine cities. Discussion Paper Series No. 2010-33. Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Makati City, Philippines. Retrieved on November 29, 2018 from
  10. Bates, L. M., Schuler, S. R., Islam, F., & Islam, K. (2004). Socioeconomic factors and processes associated with domestic violence in rural Bangladesh. International Family Planning Perspectives, 30(4), 190–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bhuiya, A. A., Chowdhury, M. R., Momen, M., & Khatan, M. (2005). Marital disruption: determinants and consequences on the lives of women in a rural area of Bangladesh. Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, 23(1), 82–94.Google Scholar
  12. Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B. (1994). At risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Broom, A., Hand, K., & Tovey, P. (2009). The role of gender, environment and individual biography in shaping qualitative interview data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 12(1), 51–65. Scholar
  14. Brouwer, R., Akter, S., Brander, L., & Haque, E. (2007). Socioeconomic vulnerability and adaptation to environmental risk: a case study of climate change & flooding in Bangladesh. Risk Analysis, 27(2), 313–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Caldwell, J. C., Caldwell, P., Caldwell, K. B., & Pieris, I. (1998). The construction of adolescence in a changing world: implications for sexuality, reproduction and marriage. Studies in Family Planning, 29(2), 66–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. CARE. (2016). The cultural context of child marriage in Nepal and Bangladesh: findings from CARE’s Tipping Point Project community participatory analysis. Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from
  17. Chowdhury, F. (2009). Theorising patriarchy: the Bangladesh context. Asia Journal of Social Science, 37(4), 599–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chowdhury, F. D. (2010). Dowry, women and law in Bangladesh. International Journal of Law Policy and the Family, 24(2), 198–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dahl, G. B. (2010). Early teen marriage and future poverty. Demography, 47(3), 689–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dasgupta, S., Şiriner, İ., & De, P. S. (2010). Women’s encounter with disaster. India: Frontpage Publications Ltd..Google Scholar
  21. De Haen, H., & Hemrich, G. (2007). The economics of natural disasters: implications and challenges for food security. Agricultural Economics, 37(1), 31–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dyson, T., & Moore, M. (1983). On kinship structure, female autonomy, and demographic behavior in India. Population and Development Review, 9(1), 35–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ezra, M. (2001). Demographic responses to environmental stress in drought- and famine-prone areas of Northern Ethiopia. International Journal of Population Geography, 7(4), 259–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Farouk, S. A. (2005). Violence against women: a statistical overview, challenges and gaps in data collection and methodology and approaches for overcoming them. Switzerland: UN Division for the Advancement of Women Retrieved on November 28, 2018 Scholar
  25. Felten-Bierman, C. (2006). Gender and natural disaster: sexualized violence and the tsunami. Development, 49(3), 82–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ferdousi, N. (2014). Child marriage in Bangladesh: socio-legal analysis. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 6(1), 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fordham, H. M. (1998). Making women visible in disasters: problematising the private domain. Disasters, 22(2), 126–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Geirbo, H. C., & Imam, N. (2006). The motivations behind giving and taking dowry. BRAC Research Monograph Series, No. 28. Dhaka: BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. Retrieved on November 28, 2018
  29. Godha, D., Hotchkiss, D. R., & Gage, A. J. (2013). Association between child marriage and reproductive health outcomes and service utilization: a multi-country study from South Asia. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), 552–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Greiving, S., Fleischhauer, F., & Luckenkotter, J. (2006). Methodology for an integrated risk assessment of spatially relevant hazards. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 49(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Haq, S. M. A. (2018). Underlying causes and the impacts of disaster events (floods) on fertility decision in rural Bangladesh. Environmental & Socio-economic Studies, 6(3), 24–35. Scholar
  32. Haq, S. M. A., & Ahmed, K. J. (2017). Does the perception of climate change vary with the socio-demographic dimensions? A study on vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. Natural Hazards, 83(3), 1759–1785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haque, A. H. M. F., Rahman, M. N., Khan, A. Z., Mukti, I. J., & Lutfunnahar, B. (2014). Knowledge, approach and status of early marriage in Bangladesh. Science Journal of Public Health, 2(3), 165–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hayashi, T., & Yamane, Y. (2010). Meteorological characteristics of tornadoes in Bangladesh. Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from
  35. Hoq, M. N. (2013). Regional differentials of age at first marriage among women in Bangladesh. Asian Journal of Applied Science and Engineering, 2(2), 76–83.Google Scholar
  36. Hossain, M., & Islam, R. (2013). Effects of socio-economic and demographic variables on age at first marriage in Bangladesh. Current Research Journal of Biological Sciences, 5(4), 149–152.Google Scholar
  37. Hossain, M. G., Mahumud, R. A., & Saw, A. (2016). Prevalence of child marriage among Bangladeshi women and trend of change over time. Journal of Biosocial Science, 48(4), 530–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. ICRW. (2006). Child marriage and poverty. Washington DC: ICRW Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  39. Islam, M. N. (2014). An introduction to research methods. Bangladesh: Book World.Google Scholar
  40. Islam, M. K., Haque, M. R., & Hossain, M. B. (2016a). Regional variations in child marriage in Bangladesh. Journal of Biosocial Science, 48(5), 694–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Islam, M. M., Islam, M. K., Hasan, M. S., & Haque, M. A. (2016b). Marriage before 16 or 18 years: the effect of marital age on women’s educational attainment in Bangladesh. Journal of Population and Social Studies, 24(1), 117–132.Google Scholar
  42. Jensen, R., & Thornton, R. (2003). Early female marriage in the developing world. Gender and Development, 11(2), 9–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kabeer, N. (2011). Between affiliation and autonomy: navigating pathways of women’s empowerment and gender justice in rural Bangladesh. Development and Change, 42(2), 499–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kamal, S. M. M. (2011). Socio-economic determinants of age at first marriage of the ethnic tribal women in Bangladesh. Asian Population Studies, 7(1), 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kamal, S. M. M., Hassan, C. H., Alam, G. M., & Ying, Y. (2014). Child marriage in Bangladesh: trends and determinants. Journal of Biosocial Science, 47(1), 120–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kamruzzaman, M., & Shaw, R. (2018). Flood and sustainable agriculture in the Haor basin of Bangladesh: a review paper. Universal Journal of Agricultural Research, 6(1), 40–49.Google Scholar
  47. Kaufmann, J.-C. (1998). Dirty linen: couples and their laundry, Middlesex University Press (Material Culture Series).Google Scholar
  48. Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kümbetoğlu, F. B., & User, I. (2010). Gender aspects of the disaster recovery process. In S. Dasgupta, İ. Şiriner, & P. De Sarathi (Eds.), Women’s encounter with disaster (pp. 22–51). London: Frontpage Publications Limited.Google Scholar
  50. Lindell, M. K., & Perry, R. W. (2004). Communicating environmental risk in multiethnic communities. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc..Google Scholar
  51. Maharjan, R. K., Karki, K. B., Shakya, T. M., & Aryal, B. (2012). Child marriage in Nepal: A research report. Kathmandu: Plan Nepal, Save the Children Nepal, and World Vision Nepal Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  52. Malhotra, A. (2010). The causes, consequences and solutions to forced child marriage in the developing world. Washington, DC: International Center for Research on Women Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  53. Mathur, S., Greene, M., & Malhotra, A. (2003). Too young to wed: The lives, rights and health of young married girls. Washington, DC: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) Retrieved on November 29, 2018 from Scholar
  54. Mehta, M. (2007). Gender matters: Lessons for disaster risk reduction in South Asia. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Retrieved on November 29, 2018 from Scholar
  55. Nasreen, M. (1998). Women in disaster: An analysis of division of labor and survival strategies in disaster. Dhaka: Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  56. Nasreen, M. (2008). Violence Against Women during flood and post-flood situations in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Action Aid, Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  57. National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), Mitra and Associates, and Macro International. (2016). Bangladesh demographic and health survey 2014. Calverton: NIPORT, Mitra and Associates, and Macro International Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  58. Otoo-Oyortey, N., & Pobi, S. (2003). Early marriage and poverty: exploring links and key policy issues. Gender and Development, 11(2), 42–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Oxfam. (2005). The tsunami’s impact on women. Oxfam briefing note, March. Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from
  60. Parsons, J., Edmeades, J., Kes, A., Petroni, S., Sexton, M., & Wodon, Q. (2015). Economic impacts of child marriage: a review of the literature. The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 13(3), 12–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Peduzzi, P., Dao, H., Harold, C., & Mouton, F. (2009). Assessing global exposure and vulnerability towards natural hazards: the disaster risk index. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 9(4), 1149–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Philip, D., & Rayhan, M. I. (2004). Vulnerability and poverty: What are the causes and how are they related? Bonn: Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  63. Plan International. (2011). Weathering the storm: Adolescent girls and climate change. London: Plan International Retrieved on 29 November, 2018 from Scholar
  64. Rashid, S. F., & Michaud, S. (2000). Female adolescents and their sexuality: notions of honour, shame, purity and pollution during the floods. Disasters, 24(1), 54–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schuler, S. R., Bates, L. M., Islam, F., & Islam, K. (2006). The timing of marriage and childbearing among rural families in Bangladesh: choosing between competing risks. Social Science & Medicine, 62(11), 2826–2837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shepherd, A., Mitchell, T., Lewis, K., Lenhardt, A., Jones, L., Scott, L., & Muir-Wood, R. (2013). Executive summary: The geography of poverty, disasters and climate extremes in 2030. London: ODI Retrieved on November 29, 2018 from Scholar
  67. Siddiqui, M. R., & Hossain, T. (2013). Geographical characteristics and the components at risk of tornado in rural Bangladesh: a case study of Brahmanbaria tornado. Journal of Geography and Natural Disasters, 3(2), 1–4.Google Scholar
  68. Streatfield, P. K., Kamal, N., Ahsan, K. Z., & Nahar, Q. (2015). Early marriage in Bangladesh: not as early as it appears. Asian Population Studies, 11(1), 94–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Teddlie, C., & Tashakkori, A. (2009). Foundations of mixed methods research: Integrating quantitative and qualitative techniques in the social and behavioral sciences. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  70. UNDP. (2004). Reducing disaster risk: a challenge for development. A Global Report. New York: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Retrieved on November 29, 2018 from
  71. UNICEF. (2001). Early marriage: child spouses. Retrieved on 28 November, 2018 from
  72. UNICEF. (2011). The state of world’s children 2011: adolescence. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  73. Urama, N. E., Eboh, E. C., & Onyekuru, A. (2017). Impact of extreme climate events on poverty in Nigeria: a case of the 2012 flood. Published online September 22, 2017. Climate and Development.
  74. Van der Geest, K., & Warner, K. (2015). Vulnerability, coping and loss and damage from climate events. In J. F. Shroder, A. E. Collins, S. Jones, B. Manyena, & J. Jayawickrama (Eds.), Hazards, risks and disasters in society (pp. 121–144). Boston: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Verma, R., Sinha, T., & Khanna, T. (2013). Asia Child Marriage Initiative: Summary of research findings in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. New Delhi: Plan Asia Regional Office Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  76. World Vision UK. (2013). Untying the knot: Exploring early marriage in fragile states. Milton Keynes: World Vision UK Retrieved on November 28, 2018 from Scholar
  77. Yamane, Y., Hayashi, T., Dewan, A. M., & Akter, F. (2010). Severe local convective storms in Bangladesh: Part 1. Climatology. Atmospheric Research, 95(4), 400–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zaman, H. (1999). Violence against women in Bangladesh: issues and responses. Women's Studies International Forum, 22(1), 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khandaker Jafor Ahmed
    • 1
  • Shah Md Atiqul Haq
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Françoise Bartiaux
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography, Environment and PopulationThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.National Fund for Scientific Research and Centre for Demographic ResearchUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Department of SociologyShahjalal University of Science and TechnologySylhetBangladesh

Personalised recommendations