THE deaths of child labourers Rajan and Rakib at the torturous hands of their employers in recent time speak of the declining child rights situation in Bangladesh. According to the report of rights group Manusher Jonno Foundation, incidents of child abuse have alarmingly increased in 2016. Eleven hundred and fifty children were killed, 10,924 were injured and 69,614 were affected harmfully from different types of abuse, negligence and maltreatment. In cases of death, children died under brutal circumstances — 214 children were murdered, 173 were killed in road accidents, 22 were killed after rape, 19 were found dead after abduction, 46 went missing and found dead, 80 committed suicide, 7 were killed in political violences, 13 died due to medical negligence, 4 were killed over child-marriage related issues, 11 were tortured, 3 were killed by children, 10 were killed due to negligence, 107 died due to cold in winter, 1 killed was by human traffickers and 451 were killed in other accidents. The condition of working class girl children is even worse. In 2016, 304 were raped, 45 faced rape attempts, 133 went missing, 38 were trafficked, 83 were subjected to child marriage, 408 were tortured, 1,536 suffered due to health-related negligence, 17 became victims of political violence, 4 were attacked with acid-throwing and 24 were sexually harassed. This proves that the government is unreasonably tolerant towards child rights violations.
When discussing the reasons behind such gross violation of child rights in Bangladesh, child rights advocates mention the pervasive culture of injustice as the prime factor. The trial process of the child abuse cases takes a long time, which is a major predicament to ensuring justice for the victims. More specifically, in cases of abuses of child domestic labourers, civic groups blame the inadequate and unspecified law with regards to the employment of child labourers at home. While no child should die in unnatural circumstances, the death of 173 children by road accident and 107 from cold weather illustrate that children even died preventable deaths. It illustrates that the fatal road safety situation and ill prepared public health system are taking a great toll on children. In general, the growing inequalities in the economy are forcing children in poverty to abandon schooling and enter the informal labour sector. The government should immediately act on the reported cases of abuse and set exemplary precedent that no child abuse will be tolerated.
In addition to the execution of proper trial of child abuse cases, the government should ratify ILO Convention 138 and 189 and include domestic child labour into labour policies. While the government should heed the demands of rights groups and consider forming a separate commission to protect child rights, for a radical change to happen in the current situation of abuse, addressing the structural causes that dehumanise working children is necessary.
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