Challenges to implementation of laws for children

Ms. Wahida Banu | Published: January 25, 2019 20:32:46

Bangladesh is the signatory and ratifies the United Nations Convention on the right of the child in 1989. We have many achievements in the field of child rights i.e. enrollment in the education/schooling, especially girl child enrollment, death of new born has been reduced, maternal mortality rate is low, the immunisation programme is 100% successfully implemented but birth registration and online birth registration have been a big challenge in this country.

Birth Registration provides us vital statistics at the national level in order to make an appropriate planning, monitoring, implementing and budgeting. This helps enable the children and adolescents to fulfill their rights.

Birth and Death Registration Act-2004 is a major safeguard for the protection of the rights of children. This Act has made it compulsory to register the birth of a child which would resolve the future complexity relating to the determination of the age of a child.

Birth registration is free of costs, but it has been reported many times that when the people went to the relevant offices for birth certificates, the staffers there demanded fee for it. Aparajeyo-Bangladesh has been working under twelve different police stations and deals with children coming in contact /conflict with the law. Supported by the European Union, the project has been facing a lot of problems to obtain a certificate.

Many parents do not understand the importance of reporting birth and obtaining certificates for their children within 45 days. They do so only when they need a birth certificate to provide the child's identity and age, mostly during school enrollment at age 6 plus. Once the birth certificate is issued or during issuing time the parents or officials may create pressure to change the date of birth because of the conflicting ages for the children with regard to school enrolment and sitting for examinations or to "legitimize" the child marriage.

Registration of birth becomes more likely as a child grows older. No significant variation in birth registration exists depending on the sex of the child but urban children are more likely than rural children to have their birth registration. The ratios are 42.9 per cent versus 35.5 per cent. Registration of birth is strongly associated with household living standard and mother's education and awareness. Knowledge about registration varies significantly between urban (72%) and rural (57.9%) areas. In Bangladesh the percentage of children younger than age 5 whose births are reported has risen sharply in recent years, at 37 per cent. Overall birth certificates were actually viewed among only 21.3 per cent of children. Improvements have been noted in all divisions. Rangpur as a newly-formed division is the best performing with almost half of under-5 children registered.

Below 9 years of age any child will not carry any criminal responsibility. Even (in the article 82) defining 12 years, children will not be treated or carry any criminal responsibility, if the child does not know the issue clearly and its consequences and or the result of the act. It was also said that if the child has committed any petty crime for the first time that will be given priority to resolve the issue through the juvenile justice court or through community-based diversion. 

National Children Policy 2010 also says that any human being below 16 years will be treated as a child. Children treated below 16 years in line with UNCRC and the criminal responsibility is the same as before (1974). The Children Act 2013 gives high emphasis that the child below 18 years of age commits any crime or is in contact/conflict with the law, he will be given high responsibility to negotiate the problem through diversion at the community level through which the juvenile delinquent will get the opportunity to correct himself.

The area of juvenile justice in Bangladesh is regulated by a number of laws, including the Children Act 1974 which is replaced by Act-2013, Children's Rules -1976. The laws governing children are scattered and varied. As a result, there are confusions and inconsistencies in the legal framework. This definition varies from law to law.

Ms. Wahida Banu is Executive Director of Aparajeyo-Bangladesh

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