THE child rights situation is worsening by the day, as is evident in at least 1,385 children dying an unnatural death, as New Age reported on Tuesday, and 3,364 others being injured in incidents of child rights violation and road accidents in 2017. The report of Manusher Jonno Foundation that New Age quoted points out that crimes against children increased in 2017 compared with the previous year. One hundred and ninety-six children were murdered and 472 children raped, which is 36 per cent higher than the 2016 figures. In road accidents, at least 375 children died in 2017, which is 53 per cent higher than the 2016 figure. At least 210 children also committed suicide in 2017. The report paints a grim picture of child rights situation. The real picture would probably be even worse as many cases are feared unreported. Children are the future of the nation. In failing to protect their rights, the government is risking the future of the nation.
In the context of Bangladesh, working class parents are compelled to send their children to work for economic survival. Stories of child workers dying or being abused at work are commonly reported. The patriarchal bias of society makes girl children even more vulnerable. According to a 2017 UNICEF report, more than one in five adolescent girls in Bangladesh are reported to have experienced forced sex. In recent times, there have been a number of incidents of child abuse, both physical and sexual, but in most of the cases, the law enforcement agencies failed to bring the criminals to justice. Child rights advocates and researchers, therefore, justifiably blame the culture of impunity for the prevailing child rights situation. Children face violence not only from strangers, but also from members of their family, school teachers and even, sometimes, from their parents. The UNICEF report also revealed that almost 80 per cent children in Bangladesh aged 2–4 years experienced violent discipline at home. Sociologists and psychologists point out that the experience of abusive behaviour at home affects a child’s psychological development. It is, therefore, a matter of collective social failure as well.
Despite being the signatory to UN Child Rights Convention, successive governments have failed to secure a safe and healthy childhood for majority of the children. It is time that the government took child rights seriously. In doing so, it must expedite the process of forming a national child rights commission that was initiated in January 2017. More importantly, it should take an integrated and comprehensive plan to financially support children from working class families and ensure a strict enforcement of the laws and regulations regarding child labour. To prevent any future occurrence of violence against children, offenders in the existing cases must be brought to justice. It is a mandated duty of the incumbents to create an enabling socio-economic environment for a safe and healthy childhood.
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