Child Protection and Child Rights: Current Status and Challenges

Suman Sengupta and Deloar Hossain*

 

This chapter uses a child protection and child rights lens to assess the progress on development of the child in 2006. It lists achievements, identifies challenges and gaps, and proposes a set of recommendations for the realization of child rights in the country. This analysis is a result of consultation with a large number of rural and urban children, as well as a review of secondary literature.

 

International Commitments

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to a standard of living, adequate health and well­ being, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that it is every child's right to have a name and nationality and to have a family who will love and care for it. The Convention also stipulates that every child has a right to adequate food and a healthy and active body; to obtain a good education and develop potential; to opportunities for play and leisure; to protection from abuse, exploitation, neglect, violence and danger, and assistance from the State. Bangladesh as a party to CRC is obligated to protect and promote the rights of all children.

 

Constitutional Guarantees

The Constitution of Bangladesh safeguards fundamental rights to life, liberty, equality under the law, protection of the law, freedom from torture and prohibition from forced labour. The fundamental principles of State policy include:

· Freedom from exploitation (Article 14);

· Providing the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care, right to reasonable rest, recreation and leisure and the right to social security, to public assistance in cases of undeserved want arising from unemployment, illness or disablement, or suffered by orphans (Article 15);

· Establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law (Article 17), raising the level of education and improving public health (Article 18);

· Non-discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 28);

· Equality of opportunity and affirmative action and reservations for children (Article 29);

· Prohibition on forced labour (Article 34).

Legal Framework

There are more than 35 laws that seek to protect children from negligence, cruelty, exploitation and abuse and to promote their development. Some of their key features are discussed below.

 

The Children Act, 1974

This is the principal law that provides for care, protection and treatment of children - both as victims and as accused - and specifies the empowerment of children as its first guiding principle. Its main objectives are to ensure children's protection and treatment. It imposes various duties and obligations upon the state, which are to be implemented through the following mechanisms:

· Juvenile courts, separate from other criminal courts, to be established to protect all children (victims and accused) (sec. 3, Chapter 4 and 6).

· Juvenile courts to be housed in a building or room different from that in which the ordinary sittings of the Court are held (sec. 7), hold separate trials for children and adults (sec. 6), protect confidentiality (sec. 9, 10, 17), assess children's age, circumstance, character and probation, officer's report (sec. 15), not to impose imprisonment or death sentence except in exceptional circumstances (sec. 51), if necessary send the child to a certified institute for development (sec. 52), discharge child after due admonition or release on probation under probation officer's or parent/guardian's supervision (sec. 53), put children at risk of harm under supervision of a care giver or institution (sec. 32.3-32.6).

· Police stations to grant bail to children (sec. 48).

· Police to be responsible for keeping children in a safe place (sec. 49), informing parents (sec. 13.2) and probation officers (sec. 50), rescuing them from harmful situations (sec. 32).

· Probation Officers to work in the best interests of the child in, as appropriate, conducting any social inquiry (sec. 15, 50), reporting to the court (sec. 31.3.c), supervising children in probation (sec. 53), support rehabilitation (sec. 31.3.d), rescuing children from harmful situations and escort them to the juvenile court (sec. 32).

 

The Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006

This law has replaced the Employment of Children's Act, 1938, Factories Act, 1965 and The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933. It provides for:

· Prohibition on engagement of children (not exceeding fourteen years of age) and adolescents (over fourteen years of age but not exceeding 18 years) in any profession or institution (sec. 34);

· Adolescents [1] can be engaged in a profession or institution subject to certification by a registered practitioner regarding his/her capability to carry out the particular work (sec. 34(2)(ka));

· No adolescent worker to be engaged in cleaning, lubricating or processing any machinery when the switch is working (sec. 39).

· An adolescent worker shall not handle any machinery unless he is fully aware of the machinery and the precautions needed to handle the same (sec. 40).

· Prohibition of adolescents from employment in deep soil or water activities (sec. 42).

Although children [2] are not to be engaged in any profession or institution, on completion of twelve years, they may be engaged in some light work that is not hazardous to their health and physical growth and which does not disrupt their education (sec. 44). In such cases, if the child workers are school goers their working hours have to be fixed in a way that their school time is not hampered.

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933

This Act prohibits prostitution of women below the age of 18 years.

The Penal Code, 1860

The Code provides that a child below nine years of age is not liable for an offence (sec. 82) and that a child aged nine to twelve years of age is not liable for an offence if the child has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding (sec. 83). Some provisions of the Penal Code dealing with selling (sec. 372) and buying (sec. 373) of minors for purposes of prostitution address children only. Others address the offences of rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation (sec. 375, 366 and 509). The Code also penalizes anyone who induces or forces a girl under 18 years of age into illicit intercourse.

The Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Domon (Bishesh Bidhan) Ain, 2000 (Women and Children Repression Prevention (Special Provisions) Act, 2000 amended in 2003)

The amended Act penalizes, among others, the following crimes of violence against women and children:

· Harm caused by any corrosive substance may be penalized by death penalty or life imprisonment with rigorous imprisonment and cash fine not above Taka 100,000.0 (sec. 4);

· Child trafficking may be penalized by death penalty or life impri-sonment or imprisonment not exceeding 20 years but not less than ten years and payment of a cash fine in addition (sec. 5);

· Kidnapping of children may be punished by life imprisonment or imprisonment of a minimum of fourteen years with rigorous imprisonment and payment of a cash fine in addition (sec. 7);

· Different forms of sexual assault and harassment.

 

State Policies

Despite positive trends in the macro-economic environment, the burden of endemic poverty falls disproportionately on women and children. Bangladesh is yet to implement national policies and to reform institutional structures and mechanisms that could promote, protect and fulfill children's rights.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), approved in 2005, includes a section on children that identifies special measures to be taken by the Government to ensure children's protection. These are mainly to create opportunities to realise children's full potential (access to health, nutrition and education, water and sanitation, etc.), serve the best interests of children in national, social, family and personal situations (empowerment of children), ensure safety and security at home and in public space (protection against abuse, exploitation and violence) and establish and protect children's rights (social inclusion, decent work and livelihood).

Government policies and programmes have increased access to primary education, especially for girls. But there has been no substantial improvement in the quality of education in the majority of primary schools nor is there improved access for the most marginalized children. As a result, approximately 5.5 million children remain out of school, 2.4 million (20 per cent) of children aged 6-10 years never enroll in primary schools and 3.17 million (33 per cent) of enrolled children drop out before completing the five year cycle of primary education. Only 17 per cent of children have access to pre-primary facilities. Many of the excluded children are from Adibashi communities, live in disaster prone areas, are differently challenged or have to work. Girls within these groups are particularly discriminated. [3]

Budgetary Allocations

State expenditure to meet essential social welfare and other services for children is hardly adequate. Public expenditure on education fell from 20 percent in 1993 to 15 percent in 2002. According to a World Bank study, the allocation for education will need to increase to 26 per cent by 2008 in order to achieve essential quality improvements; as a share of the GDP, budget allocation to education would need to increase from 2.1 to 4 per cent by 2008 in order to achieve MDG 2. [4] The National Education for ALL (EFA) Plan calls for an increase in allocation in basic education to at least ten per cent of GDP by 2015 in order to reach its goals. [5]

 

Status of Children

Bangladesh has a total population of 139.2 million, with a fertility rate of 3.2. The population of children in the age group of 0-14 years is almost 50 million. Given such a large child population, coupled with the low productivity of adults and resource constraints, it is inevitable that not all children are cared for and many of them have to work for their livelihood, which deprives them of a healthy childhood that includes access to nutrition, health care, education and recreation. In 2006, Bangladesh was ranked among the world's medium developed countries at number 137 (out of 177 countries). In UNDP's human poverty index (HPI-1), [6] Bangladesh ranked 85 th among 102 developing countries.

The percentage of under-five year old under-weight children is 48 per cent. Forty per cent of adolescent girls and 30 per cent of boys suffer from anaemia. [7] Thirty per cent of infants have low birth-weight. The infant mortality rate is 56/1,000 live births and the under-five mortality rate is 77/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth is 62.6 per cent. The maternal mortality rate is 280/100,000 live births. HIV prevalence in the age group of 15-49 years is below 0.2 per cent of population and there are 435 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 persons. Seventy four per cent of the population has sustainable access to an improved water source. Childhood health and disease has reduced significantly with a widespread immunization coverage. Nevertheless, Bangladesh remains one of the highest malnutrition-prevalent countries and a high proportion of low birth weight in newborns continues to be a major concern.

Approximately five million working children in Bangladesh are excluded from formal education. Although the ILO and the Government have taken up programmes to eliminate child labour from the formal sector, many children remain involved in hazardous work in the informal sector. The ILO has identified a list of 49 hazardous forms of employment, including shrimp processing and production.

Marginalized and most vulnerable [8] children

Generally children from the poorest families are deprived of access to basic services and to family care and support. They include children living on the street or in institutions such as orphanages, children involved in the most hazardous forms of work, especially domestic work, or sex work, children in conflict/contact with law or victims of law enforcement agencies. A vulnerability analysis by Save the Children UK (SCUK) in 2004 indicated that at least nine per cent of the total child population was in the most vulnerable situation because of various reasons, such as their involvement in hazardous work, separation from family care, conflict with the law, highly stigmatised social position and life styles and natural disasters. Street children or working children were the main targets of arrest and confinement in jails or in poorly maintained public institutions, even though most of them would have been better off in community care and supervision. Mentally and physically challenged children are another highly marginalised group.

Girls are generally more vulnerable and constitute a disproportionate number of victims in cases of gender based violence in the family and community including sexual violence, early marriage and trafficking). SCUK's long experience has shown that during natural disasters such as floods, children from the poorest families, and girls in particular, face increased risk of abuse. Exploitative conditions of employment of young girls, especially in domestic work, are overlooked in the child labour policy debate. They are also an overlooked minority in debates concerning the juvenile justice system.

The number of the most vulnerable children nationwide was estimated at 4.8 million. [9] Thirty eight per cent of them were found to be girls. Children under 15 years were more vulnerable since they were dependent on adults for food, care and protection. Fifteen year olds missed out on opportunities for development and education because of their involvement in hazardous work and long working hours. Children reaching puberty (12 -15 years) were frequent targets of sexual abuse and society's repressive attitude towards sexual violence limited their access to redress. The demographic information on specific vulnerable groups of children was as follows:

· Children in hazardous work constituted about 17 per cent of working children (that is 1.3 million) in age group 5-17 years. [10] Ninety one per cent of those engaged in worst forms of child labour were boys. A very recent survey estimated 78 per cent out of 421,000 child domestic workers in the age group 6-17 years were girls.

· Street Children: Approximately 674,000 children lived on the street. [11] The boy/girl ratio was 79:21. [12] Majority of the boys were in the age group of 11-18 years, whereas more girls were in the age group of 10 years or below. They were exposed to a dangerous living environment, with limited safeguards against abuse by adults. They were also deprived of basic facilities such as shelter and food.

· Minors in sex work and children of sex workers: The national estimate of children between 10-15 years in sex work was 13,000, which included 27 per cent boys and 73 per cent girls. [13] The number of children of sex workers was estimated at around 20,000 in 18 registered brothels. [14] Majority of them were under 15 years and the boy/girl ratio was 55:45. [15] They are highly stigmatized by society. They were subjected to abuse by police, mastans and had limited access to support services.

· Physically and mentally challenged children: There were estimated to be 658,000 children under 15 years. [16] They faced social exclusion and lacked access to appropriate services and facilities. Disability was found to be lower in girls than in boys.

· Adibashi children: Their population was roughly estimated at 535,000. Because their communities had a low social status, the children too were excluded from development and exposed to violence.

· Children living in institutions: Around 160,000 children, majority of them between five to fifteen years, were living in 81 Government run residential institutions and 2,362 private orphanages [17] because they had no family care or support. These institutions did not allow monitoring or supervision by public bodies, therefore they were unable to access external help.

· Children in conflict with the law: A recent survey of nine police stations revealed that approximately 50,000 children were liable to arrest every year. Around 3,000 of them were likely to end up in jails and 500 per year were admitted to the care of Child Development Centres. Girls constituted 12 per cent of the total number of children in jails and 18 per cent in Child Development Centres. [18] Many poor children were exposed to street violence, when they were picked up by police from political demonstrations. have been deprived of liberty and denied protective care and development as guaranteed by the law.

· Children affected by floods: Every year at least 1.9 million children were affected by flood hazards and around 900,000 children were at risk of displacement. [19] In shelters, many were likely to be exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation.

 

Challenges for Protection of the Child

Many children face multi-dimensional forms of violence that cause long lasting harm to their natural development. Children consistently expressed their concerns about the absence of a safe environment ( nirapod poribesh ), [20] which leads to violence, abuse and exploitation within the family, community, street, work place, school, in state and non-state institutions and also in the justice system. The current governance deficit in Bangladesh has further aggravated the situation because the duty bearers such as lawmakers, executives, police, probation officers, and even judges remain insensitive to children's rights and fail to provide protection, special care and treatment.

In recent years, however, child rights have featured increasingly in policy debates and discussions amongst Government officials and NGOs. News reports on violence and torture against children in the print media and in the private TV channels has increased. Many organizations are also working to sensitize the public so that there is increased awareness of child rights.

The Government is committed to protection of the child but it lacks depth of understanding and consistent planning. For example, the Children Act, 1974 is a broad-ranging and progressive instrument dealing with the State's role in providing protection to children. Its focus is on juvenile justice, with much less clear provision for the treatment of children experiencing violence. It is not widely known or understood by duty-bearers.

Policy and legal instruments dealing with other issues such as gender-based violence and child labour are often narrow in focus and do not address the best interests of children experiencing violence. Laws against child labour are applicable only to the formal economic sectors. But most children who work in the informal sector, such as small factories, workshops, motor garage, shops, agriculture or domestic work, are not regulated by law nor are these establishments monitored by any Government agency. The Government ratified ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2001, but has yet to enact laws in compliance. It has not yet finalized a national child labour policy, although discussions on it were initiated in 2002.

At the community level there are few dedicated services or personnel. Upazilla Social Welfare Officers [21] have been mandated to intervene in child protection issues but this responsibility is shared with a host of other community development duties, which often take precedence. Village Courts, constituted by members of local elected bodies (Union Porishods in rural areas and ward committees in urban areas) have a broad mandate for resolving family disputes. However, poor awareness of child protection issues leads to negative responses towards child issues. Bangladesh's extensive NGO network provides certain services related to protection such as education for working children, shelters and homes for children experiencing abuse and legal aid, etc. However, they tend to address only a limited number of the protection issues faced by children and do not maintain standards and accountability. In some cases inadequate responses by duty providers result in further harm to children survivors of violence.

All forms of violence and exploitation are not recognised as such by communities nor are they publicly acknowledged. The existing community structures which deal with such issues are not often sensitive to the needs of children. Policy making processes are generally slow and obscure. Decision makers appear to be more sensitive to political factors than the best interests of the child and implementation rarely follows the spirit of the law.

 

Government strategies for child protection

A National Task Force was set up in 2003 to address the problems faced by children in conflict with the law. In compliance with the High Court judgment in Writ Petition 248 of 2003, the National Task Force (NTF) set up Upazilla level Task Forces to expedite release of children from jails and assist their social rehabilitation. In 2005, the Task Forces and NGOs nationwide facilitated the release of about 3,000 children. [22]

The Government has recently formed a committee with representatives of different ministries, donor agencies, INGOs and NGOs to amend or review the Children Act, 1974 and Children Rules, 1976 and to consider establishing separate juvenile courts in four divisional cities. [23] This proposal was under consideration of the Finance Ministry. The Office of the Register of the Bangladesh Supreme Court had also directed [24] the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs to expedite the process of establishing Juvenile Courts. The Ministry of Education reallocated Taka 42.8 million in three Kishore Unnayan Kendras to upgrade education and vocational training instead of commencing vocational training for children in Dhaka and Kashimpur Central Jails.

Police Headquarters issued orders [25] to all police units to implement the provisions of the Children Act, 1974 by granting bail to children at police stations (sec. 48) [26] , informing the child's parent of its arrest (sec. 13.2), informing the concerned probation officer (sec. 50) [27] and ascertaining the age of the child. The office of the Deputy Inspector General (Range) in Sylhet, Rajshahi and Chittagong also issued orders to deploy child friendly police in all police units in their respective regions. One police officer in each police station in Dhaka Metropolitan area has been deployed for children only. An assessment study directed by the NTF has been planned to identify the children's potential to come in contact with the law in six divisional cities. [28] Police Headquarters have devised a format based on the Children Act, 1974 to monitor the situation of children in police stations. On 19 June 2006, Police Headquarters issued another circular to all police stations not to arrest children during the election period nor to submit any prayer for their detention. [29]

A Government decision of 2002 to set up Juvenile Courts in all districts and pending this to assign Magistrates in all districts to deal with juvenile offences had not been implemented until 2006. Existing courts have in the meantime been mandated to try juvenile offences, but due to their inexperience with such matters and backlogs these cases are not processed properly. An example is the death reference for a child of fourteen years who was convicted for rape and murder in July 2006.

Judicial Response

The High Court Division of the Supreme Court, in July 2006, passed a significant judgement against the death sentence of a child. The Court observed in its order:

“With the above scheme of criminal trial in view, we find that the Children Act, 1974 deals with the jurisdiction of a Court with regard, inter alia, to accused persons under the age of 16 years. The Act is of universal application and gives the jurisdiction over all such accused persons to the Juvenile Court set-up under the provision of the Children Act, 1974. The Act, therefore, has an overriding character having a universally acceptable approach, inasmuch as it gives the jurisdiction to the Juvenile Court to try all offences which may concern any child below the age of 16 years. It is with this view in mind, we believe, that so many of the decisions of this Bench have been either sent on remand for trial by the Juvenile Court upon assessment of age or judgments have been set aside due to lack of jurisdiction of the Court other than the Juvenile Court trying the accused children. We are, therefore, of the view, that jurisdiction over the offence is a secondary consideration, the first consideration being the jurisdiction over the person of the accused. When the jurisdiction over person is established then no other Court has power to try a child below the age of 16 years. In such view of the matter, we find that the trial of the accused who was found to be below the age of 16 years at the framing of charge was without jurisdiction.”

The Court also directed:

“Let a copy of this judgment be sent to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for recommending legislation in line with the views expressed by us in this judgment.”

Important developments on child rights took place in the lower courts. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court, Dhaka applied the provisions of the Children Act, 1974 in relation to parental responsibility for the first time after its enactment. The Court issued a show cause notice to the parent of a victim child as to why they should not be charged for their negligence towards their child. It also passed an order on the probation officer to prepare a Social Inquiry Report (SIR) on the child. Finally the Court directed the parent to take proper care and the probation officer to monitor the implementation of the order. [30]

In another case, the High Court denied the bail petition of a child on the ground that he was not protected within the family and directed him to be sent to the Kishore Unnayan Kendra (KUK), Tongi for his protection. An application by the police to take the arrestee into remand was rejected and the police were directed to interview the child in KUK to identify his involvement in the incident. The probation officer was ordered to prepare a Social Inquiry Report (SIR).

The media response

A positive change in media reports on child issues in 2006 has drawn increased attention from policy makers and the higher judiciary to the violations of child rights. Reports documenting the prevalence of violence and editorials have broken social taboos on revealing such information.

According to the Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), [31] the media in 2006 reported on 2,953 incidents of violence against children including 267 murders. News reports also drew attention to the violence on young domestic workers perpetrated by their employers. While these figures cannot be used to identify trends, since not all incidents are reported regularly, a compilation from ten newspapers showed a higher number of incidents of violence on child domestic workers reported in 2006 as compared to 2005.

Juvenile justice issues became the lead news in several newspapers and electronic channels. On the third anniversary of the landmark judgment cited earlier [32] several stories were published on the implementation of the Court order to release children from jail. [33] Local newspaper reports resulted in building critical awareness and mobilizing support.

Table XV.1: Violence against Child Domestic Workers [34] 2004-2006

Type of Violence

2004

2005

2006

Total

Physical violence

32

48

45

125

Killed after physical violence

22

47

12

57

Rape

16

13

11

40

Killed after rape

-

-

2

2

Death after abortion

-

2

1

3

Suicide

-

5

13

18

Total

70

115

84

245

The Daily Star was actively involved in awareness and advocacy work for children as a member of the childrens' justice network. Local media continued to interact with local level child rights networks and the community in establishing children's rights.

 

Response of Non-Government Organizations

Several human rights organizations have provided legal support to protect children in conflict with the law. National organizations such as the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), the Bangladesh Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), Aparajeyo Bangladesh (AB), Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) have provided access to legal aid, secure shelters, rehabilitation and counselling to survivors. Some NGOs have monitored police stations in the Dhaka Metropolitan area and provided necessary protection for children, while a few legal aid NGOs have extended family tracing and reintegration support.

However, these were emergency responses to incidents. Child rights' violations within the family were generally ignored, except in matters of custody or maintenance, in which women's interests were prioritised. The fact that, in many instances, children were victims of domestic violence, both psychological and physical, in the name of parental guidance, was hardly acknowledged. In mediating family disputes, NGOs tended to ignore the children as parties in the dispute. Some NGOs provided legal education and training related to child rights to other NGOs and Government agencies, including the police. A few NGOs were attempting to mobilise community activism through theatre and other rights based approaches.

Only a few organisations [35] have addressed the needs of children in conflict/contact with the law. Most have focused on the rights of children to legal representation. The fact that detention itself is a violation of child rights and hampers the natural development of a child is not widely accepted by NGO personnel.

A large number of local and international NGOs are working on strategies for advocacy for policy changes and increasing awareness of the community to combat trafficking as well as legal support and rehabilitation programmes for women and children survivors of trafficking. International organizations such as USAID, IOM and Save the Children constitute lead agencies for research, training and other interventions on trafficking.

Recommendations of the CRC Committee

Bangladesh submitted its Second Periodic Report on compliance with the Child Rights Convention to the Child Rights Committee in 2003. Because of the delay in submitting the Third Periodic Report, the Committee has urged the state party to comply with reporting obligations by submitting a consolidated Third and Fourth Periodic Report by 1 September 2007. The Government has yet to finalize a formal mechanism of reporting to be led by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. NGOs too need to devise a mechanism of monitoring compliance and submit an alternative report to the Committee.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee had urged the State to set up effective mechanisms for protection of child rights, such as:

· A Directorate of Children Affairs under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to improve local and national level coordination among the different bodies involved in implementing the Convention.

· An independent National Human Rights Commission and an Ombudsperson to monitor compliance with the UNCRC, deal with children's complaints and provide remedies for child rights violations under the Convention.

· An Executive Committee to activate the National Children Council and provide it with necessary resources for effective implementation and monitoring of the National Plan of Action for Children.

· A comprehensive court for justice for protection of children.

· The Committee further recommended that the State enact legislation to prohibit imposition of death penalty for children, [36] and strengthen mechanisms to promote and facilitate child participation in various levels of decision-making process. [37]

 

Children's recommendations

In preparing its country strategy paper, SCUK held consultations with around 30 children from Kurigram, Moulvibazar. They made a number of useful recommendations to redress their conditions, as given below:

Poverty

· Ensure livelihood opportunities for parents of poor children.

· Arrange primary and vocational education for street children.

· Promote basic rights of the children of Adibashis .

· Offer access to development opportunities.

Protection/Security

· Rehabilitate and integrate children in conflict with the law in society.

· Reform and enforce child-protection related laws.

· Mandate a particular agency to provide adequate protection.

· Make parents aware of the need for protection of children.

· Make children conscious of their own protection.

Food Security and Nutrition

· Control price of food and other essentials and prevent adulteration of nutrient-rich food items.

· Campaign for safe water.

· Schools to arrange micro-nutrient rich meals for students.

 

Education

· Offer free, compulsory and quality education for all children.

· Child-friendly learning environment with safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, etc.

· Improve training of teachers to ensure quality education.

· Provide recreation and library facilities in all schools.

· Introduce children's participation in school management committees.

Child labour

· Education facilities for working children at the work place.

· Set up flexible learning centres for education of working children.

· Only light tasks to be given to children.

· Effective laws, awareness of laws and legal support for working children.

· Adequate and regular payment of wages to working children.

· Medical treatment facilities at the work place.

· Regular snacks for children at the work place.

· Employers of domestic child workers to be responsible for their protection.

Health and Treatment

· Children's hospitals in every district, with qualified doctors and nurses.

· Free medical treatment for working children.

· Improved quality of medical treatment.

· Doctors should educate patients about their health.

Shelter

· Ensure safe, sanitary and healthy shelters for homeless children

Clothing

· Uniforms and warm clothes to be provided to poor children and street children free of cost.

· Clothes to be distributed to flood-affected children.

Recreation

· Recreation opportunities, particularly games, songs, dances, acting, etc., for working children.

· Facilities for games and sports for all children

· Popularise the importance of recreation for a child's mental development amongst parents and teachers.

Conclusion

Bangladesh has made significant progress in some of its social development indicators, particularly with respect to the infant mortality rate, total fertility rate, life expectancy, primary school enrollment and poverty reduction. In spite of these positive developments, the realization of child rights and child remain challenging concerns.

With increasing political and social commitment, involvement of the judiciary and media, active participation of civil society and a growing recognition about the plight of children, the issue of child rights and child protection is gaining greater prominence in Bangladesh. This is expected to lead to a more widespread realization of child rights.

 

Notes


* Suman Sengupta is Country Director, and Deloar Hossain is Programme Officer (Juvenile Justice), Save the Children UK Bangladesh Programme.


[1] Adolescent means a person who has completed 14 years but not completed 18 years (sec. 2 (8)).

[2] Child means a person who has not completed 14 years (sec. 2 (63)).

[3] Analysis of vulnerable children, Save the Children UK, 2004 (unpublished).

[4] World Bank, Bangladesh Education Sector Review , Vol. 1, 2000.

[5] Education for All: National Plan of Action II , 2003 – 2015, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, May 2003.

[6] The HPI-1 measures severe deprivation in health by the proportion of people who are not expected to survive 40 years. Education is measured by the adult illiteracy rate. And a decent standard of living is measured by the unweighted average of people without access to an improved water source and the proportion of children under age 5 who are underweight for their age.

[7] Nutrition Surveillance Project, Bulletin No. 16, Dhaka, Helen Keller International/ Bangladesh, April 2006.

[8] Save the Children UK's understanding on vulnerability is “…a child is vulnerable if there is a higher probability, relative to other children, that it will be exposed to harm that will cause a negative outcome for that child.”

[9] Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) 2002.

[10] National Child Labour Survey 2002-2003 , Bangladesh Bureau of Statistisc (BBS), October 2003.

[11] N. I. Khan, “Position Paper on Socially Disadvantaged Children”, MoWCA, Department of Social Services and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), 2004 survey.

[12] Department of Social Services & Bangladesh Institute of Development Study 2004 survey; N. I. Khan, op. cit., MoWCA.

[13] CONCERN/READ, 2000.

[14] Asia Child Rights Weekly Newsletter , 2002.

[15] Department of Social Services, 2002.

[16] Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 2002.

[17] Department of Social Services , 2005.

[18] Save the Children-UK, 2005.

[19] Department for International Development 2005.

[20] It has been consistently prioritised as second only to education in Save the Children's work on consultations for the National Plan of Action for Children, on the Poverty Reduction Strategy paper on the Save the Children UK Bangladesh Country Strategy and in the design study for Thematic Programme Planning.

[21] Sub-district.

[22] Save the Children-UK, 2006.

[23] Save the Children - UK had proposed setting up in all districts.

[24] Memo No. 6895, 21 June, 2006.

[25] Memo No. nari: nirjaton: protirodh cell/61-2004/141(82), dt. 09/05/2005

[26] Memo No. Aparadh-1/331-2003 (crime-35)/222 (72), dt. 20/01/04

[27] Memo No. nari: nirjaton: protirodh cell/08-2003/141(81), dt. 22/03/2005

[28] Decision No. 8 of 7 th NTF meeting, dated 20 July, 2006, Prime Minister's Office.

[29] Memo no . nari: nirjaton: protirodh cell/8-03/1309(78), dated: 19/10/2006.

[30] The Daily Star , 7 September, 2006.

[31] Quarterly Reports of the Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF ) based on 12 national newspaper reports. January - June 2006 and July - December 2006 issues.

[32] Writ Petition No. 248 of 2003.

[33] New Age on 9 April 2006, Bangladesh Observer , New Nation , Financial Express on 18 April 2006. Channel I , Channel One telecast reports on 9 April 2006. BBC reported on the same issue on 9 April 2006.

[34] ASK's compilation from Prothom alo, Bhorer Kagoj, Sangbad, Ittefaq, Janakantha, Jugantor, Inqilab, Dinkal, Bangla Bazar, The Daily Star, New Age, Sangram and Shamokal.

[35] Save the Children-UK is one of them.

[36] For instance, 14 year old Shukur Ali was sentenced to death. Following protests by Save the Children-UK and other NGOs a mercy petition was submitted to the President.

[37] For instance, children could be involved in the monitoring of the National Plan of Action for Children, the PRSP and other relevant national policies and strategies affecting children's lives.