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The Financial Express

Why the nation is woefully failing its children

Shihab Sarkar | Published: January 19, 2017 19:47:49 | Updated: October 19, 2017 14:28:57


Why the nation is woefully failing its children

The findings of a report released on January 17 show a little decline in the total number of children killed in 2016 in the country compared to the previous year. But the sense of relief disappears with the survey mentioning an alarming increase in the number of children killed by their parents in 2016. In that year, 64 children out of 265 murdered, were killed by their own parents. The survey was conducted by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. To the great shock of the general people, the report says on average 20 children were killed and over 30 were allegedly raped every month in 2016. Sexual assaults on children have lately emerged as a national scourge.   
It's ironical to note that compared to the plight of children in many strife-torn regions in today's world, that of Bangladesh increasingly seem to be worse off. There are no wars or protracted violence in the country. Children do not need to accompany their displaced parents to the safer areas, or distant shores. In terms of the ferocity of overall violence, the country is far away from the riot-torn Syria, Iraq or some Sub-Saharan African nations. Consequently, its children do not go hungry or without clothing during winter. A semblance of peace prevails in the present Bangladesh. Yet on a weird count, a large number of the country's children are increasingly emerging as one of the most luckless in the world.
Notwithstanding the meeting of most of their basic needs, a grim future stares the Bangladesh children in the face. Their lives are full of woes. Going by the picture offered by the ground reality, these children remain haunted by scores of maladies and malaises. Many of them do not go to school or have to drop out to engage in menial work to add to their family earnings. Some become victims of torture and trauma while at work. In a lot of cases, the nature of work is hazardous inviting myriad types of physical incapability and even death. The most horrifying part of the episode is the girl child's increasing vulnerability to sexual violence. According to the research conducted by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), in the last three years Bangladesh witnessed sexual attack on around three hundred children. The number was almost half of all the rape victims in the country. To the distress of the saner sections of society, nearly half of the child victims of sexual violence are below 12 years. Of them many were found to be less than 6-years-old. The very hideousness of the psychopathic assaults on underage girls takes it to the area of sheer monstrosity. 
In 1971, girl children were fully safe. Shockingly in independent Bangladesh, minor girls have to undergo this traumatic ordeal. Sociologists normally blame the deterioration in values and morality for the epidemical rise in rape occurrences in the country. Some point out the abuse of mind-altering drugs for this scourge. Bengalees have never been known to be a nation prone to aberrant behaviours. Women and girls, despite their low prospects for families' income generation, have traditionally enjoyed a special place among males. It's only lately that this attitude has begun changing, with the women in general being relegated to mere objects of carnal desire. The extent of perversion has reached such a low that parents dread the idea of leaving even their baby girls alone at home. The prevalence of the troubling scenario is wide in the rural areas. In the cities, the girls in the shanties and those belonging to the floating class are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.  An appalling part of the tale is the fully criminalised paedophiles do not bother to kill their victims after the grisly acts.
 Compulsive cruelty to children is also on the rise, at times reaching alarming proportions in terms of both frequency and pervert nature. In the past, torture of children used to be limited to domestic helps. For minor offences they would be subject to inhuman punishments. Beating, burning, pouring hot water on the body and keeping them starved would comprise the list of common practices. The cruelties on occasions teetered on the verge of sadistic behaviours, leading even to macabre killings. Shockingly enough, these cruelties have lately spread to the areas outside homes. The incidents of beating child workers to death after hanging them upside down, pumping air into their stomach through pipe thus causing their painful deaths shook the country last year. To the horror of the generally empathetic people, these beastly funs continue unabated.
Unlike in many developing countries, engaging children in hazardous jobs is a normal practice in Bangladesh. Different studies have unanimously pointed out the casual nature of child labour in the country. The scourge is glaringly present with all its disturbing features. Despite the government resolve to eliminate child labour from the country by 2016, the number of these underage workers continues to rise. The government earlier identified 38 sectors as being prone to employing children. It also expressed its determination to prevent recruitment of child labour for hazardous works. Thanks to the pressure from the overseas developed countries, the ready-made garment (RMG) and shrimp processing industries could finally be made free of child workers. But a strong presence of child workers could still be found in the informal sectors. These include transport, different types of sweat-shop factories, brick kilns, etc.
In its latest report on child labour in the country, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has put the number of children engaged in active labour at 3.45 million. Many of these workers are found doing hazardous jobs. BBS puts their number at 1.228 million for December last year.
Child labour prevention and human rights activists routinely express their dismay at the state of children in Bangladesh. How can't they? Finding children as young as below-10 doing the job of a human hauler help precariously standing on the back footrest of the vehicle will only depress them. Children engaged in long hours of laborious work at dingy factories or carrying heavy loads of bricks on their heads show no signs of abating. So do the discomfiture and worries of rights bodies and fronts. 
 The country is a signatory to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In line with this, the government formulated the National Children's Act in 2013. It aims at building a better future for the children of Bangladesh. Besides, the government formulated the National Child Labour Elimination Policy in 2010. Despite ratification of the UN convention and putting into effect several instruments for the protection of children, the euphemistically dubbed 'future citizens' of the country, are in a bad shape. Apart from their state on mundane level, the intangible world of the children is equally beset with ordeals. Due to their chiefly cerebral nature, the torments and sufferings of the children go undetected. The recent textbook disaster and its impact stand out as a glaring example of the level of general indifference to the country's children.
Shihabskr@ymail.com
 

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