Social distancing rules have led to a sharp decline in number of marriage registrations. As a result, marriage registrars in the country are having a tough time
On April 10, two families in Salehpur village arranged a marriage in Aminbazar Union of Savar Upazila, on the outskirts of Dhaka.
However, members of RAB-4 launched a drive in the village and stopped the programme.
Anisur Rahman, magistrate of the elite force, fined eight persons of the two families Tk80,000 for arranging a marriage in the midst of the pandemic and violating social distancing rules.
The law enforcement agents asked both families to come to a legal agreement that they would hold off the marriage until the coronavirus situation returns to normal.
"I was requested to register the marriage, but I told the father of the bride that I cannot do it during such a bad time," said Khalilur Rahman, nikah registrar of Aminbazar Union.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the government closed educational institutions, transportation and imposed ban on social programmes.
The law enforcement agencies were in the field strictly enforcing social distancing rules.
But like Khalilur Rahman, this forced around 7,500 nikah registrars in the country into hardship, as they ran out of work.
Though the government has eased the shutdown, the number of marriages has not increased significantly.
Nikah registrars across the country are having a tough time financially.
Those in the rural areas are bearing the brunt.
"During normal times, I would register 15-20 marriages every month, but last month I registered only three marriages. We are living a miserable life," said Khalilur Rahman.
Analysing data from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), Mohammad Bellal Hossain, professor of population sciences at Dhaka University, told The Business Standard that around 2 lakh people get married every month in Bangladesh.
But soon after social distancing rules were imposed in March, the number of couples getting married in person fell drastically.
The nikah registrars, more commonly known as Kazis, became totally jobless during the pandemic.
Mamunur Rashid, a Kazi in Sutrapur area, said that on an average he would register 50 marriages per month before the pandemic.
His office was opened after the 66-day shutdown. Now the number of marriages has fallen to 10-15 per month.
"I think the middle-class, who do not necessarily need ceremonies, are the only ones getting married nowadays," said Mamunur Rashid.
Iqbal Hossain is a Kazi in Shantinagar area in the capital. He informed this correspondent that on an average, he would register 30 marriages every month.
From March to May, he registered only seven marriages.
"In June, I registered five marriages. In the last 10 days of July, I have registered only two marriages," said Iqbal Hossain, who is also the general secretary of Bangladesh Muslim Nikah Registrar Association.
According to Muslim Marriages and Divorces (Registration) Rules-2009, marriage registrars receive a 12.5 percent commission on every Tk1,000 up to Tk4 lakh of the amount of "den mohor", the money pledged by the groom to the bride.
If the amount is more than Tk4 lakh, then it is Tk100 for the following each lakh.
The minimum fee for any amount of den mohor is Tk200.
The groom will have to pay the registrar's money, according to the law.
Nikah registrars bear all their office expenses from these earnings.
Iqbal Hossain said that monthly marriage registrations have fallen by almost 95 per cent and most nikah registrars are facing hard times.
The association leader also said that they applied to the government in April to grant them a stimulus package amounting to Tk500 crore or some other financial assistance.
"We cannot pay the office expenses, electricity bills, and staff salary. I believe the prime minister will consider our appeal," said Iqbal Hossain.
When asked about the financial assistance for nikah registrars, Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Business Standard that they are considering the matter.
"We will discuss the matter with the prime minister and then we will take a decision," said Anisul Huq.
Jurisdiction of Kazis
According to Muslim Marriages and Divorces (Registration) Rules-2009, the government issues licence to one nikah registrar for one ward in a city corporation area.
In the case of a class-1 municipality, one nikah registrar can have two wards under him and in a class-2 municipality, he can have three wards.
In a class-3 municipality, one nikah registrar can have the whole municipality under his jurisdiction.
In rural areas, the government issues licence to one nikah registrar for a union parishad.
"In most cases, people who passed out of madrasas and who have good relationships with nikah registrars come into this profession," said Mamunur Rashid, adding that it is an independent profession and you can do something else besides working as a Kazi.
How much money do they give to the state?
The nikah registrars have to get a licence by paying Tk10,000 to the city corporation.
In case of district sadar municipality, the licence fee is Tk2,000.
For other municipalities, the licence fee is Tk700. A nikah registrar has to pay Tk500 to get a licence in a union parishad.
Every year by March 31, they have to submit a yearly fee to the government.
The yearly fee for a nikah register of a city corporation area is Tk5,000.
The yearly fee for a district sadar municipality area is Tk1,000 while for other municipalities, the fee is Tk500 and for the union parishad the fee is Tk100.
Every nikah registrar has to pay the marriage registration fee by July 15 of every year.
The nikah registrars of the Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet City Corporation have to pay Tk10,000 while those of other city corporation areas have to pay Tk8,000.
The nikah registrars of the municipal areas have to pay Tk2000 while those in the union parishad have to pay Tk1,000 as marriage registration fees.