Protecting children’s rights in BD

Reality lies far from expectation

Published : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018 at 12:00 AM
 Children are the creator’s most precious gift to mankind and most precious as future of a nation depends on them. We need to protect them from all adverse situations to the best of our ability. Children cannot fight alone for their rights. They are dependent on the adults for that. Hence, children’s rights are one of the most discussed areas of human rights as well all around the world.
Children have several rights including that to special protection. Food, healthcare, education etc but they remain vulnerable to adversities through a good part of their lives. Therefore, it’s the duty of the adults including their parents to ensure the children are best kept and protected from abuse to allow them grow up as worthy citizens of the country and capable of taking future responsibility of the nation.
The main international human rights treaty on children’s rights is the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines a child as any human being below the age of eighteen years. Children’s rights includes their right to association with both parents, human identity with physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child’s civil rights and freedom from any sort of discrimination.
The CRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world which imposes a duty to ensure that all children in a country enjoy the rights set out in the treaty.
The CRC includes the entire range of human rights like; civil, political, economic, social and cultural aspects and sets out the specific ways these rights should be ensured for children. In simple words, it asks for children to be treated fairly no matter what and ensuring that people do what is best for them.
CRC also ensures that children have a say in decisions affecting them. Children’s rights to education, play and cultural activities are given huge importance in the CRC. Ensuring physical and mental health for children is also adopted in the CRC. Their safety and protection as required is also emphasized.
Children do not have autonomy or the right to make decisions on their own for themselves in any known jurisdiction of the world as minors according to the law. Hence, their adult caregivers are vested with that authority, depending on the circumstances.
Most of the UN-member countries have ratified to these rights of the children all around the world but still the situation of the children all around the globe is not satisfactory.
Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in August 1990, marking children’s rights to life, survival and development on the national agenda. Despite that, children in Bangladesh are facing several types of challenges. They are living in a vulnerable condition and we have severely failed to ensure safe and secured environment for them.
According to reports, more than twenty-six million children live below the national poverty line in Bangladesh. They are typically deprived of basic needs like; water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health, information and shelter. We have one of the highest rates of child-marriage in the world. Around 66 per cent of women were married before they actually turned 18.
Child labour is another aspect which is tremendously violating children’s rights in Bangladesh. Around 13 per cent of children are involved in child labour. Child labourers are often denied education and are vulnerable to violence and abuse. They are also deprived of physical and mental growth. On top of that, Bangladesh has one of the lowest rates of birth registration in the world. It creates difficulty in protecting children from trafficking, child labour and child marriage.
Education is very important for children and due to poverty and lack of facilities, our children are often denied of education. Primary schooling has been made free for the children by the government as guided by the CRC. High drop-out rates and poor quality teaching and learning are serious problems for primary schools.
To build a nation, it is very important that education is ensured for the children today. But our education system is not very effective as it creates inequality. The syllabus is not same at all junior schools. Moreover, there is disparity among the curriculums of Bengali medium, English Medium and Madrasa education.
Additionally, it is the right of our children to learn about the correct history of our country. But they are deprived of that. There is lack of coordination in preparing curriculum for different levels of schooling and huge inequality exists between rural and urban schools. The curriculum is not same and changes randomly. In this process we are violating children’s rights to information on correct history of Bangladesh.
Neonatal death and maternal mortality rates remain high, primarily because of no access to proper medical care along with high rate of child marriage. Health facilities lack qualified staff and suffer from shortages of medical supplies especially in rural areas. Along with that, under-nutrition contributes a-lot to child mortality.
Moreover, the violence against children is frighteningly rising in Bangladesh. They are often victims of domestic violence and are abused by the parents. The child labourers are the greatest fatalities of such offence. Many children died in last few years of domestic violence, mass and public torture. They have been victims of torture, rape, killings and different types of abuse.
Our children are completely out of recreational facilities. We do not have adequate fields for them to play. Schools are established in residential buildings with no playing fields. Limited recreational facilities, mostly costly and unaffordable, prevent access of children to any recreational activities.
There is no comprehensive national legislation governing the rights of children in Bangladesh. Provisions related to children are spread across various different laws, many of which predate the CRC leading towards inconsistency with the rights outlined in the CRC.
The ground-breaking Children Act of 1974 is the only legislation specifically addressing children. However, this law deals only with children in need of protection and children in conflict with the law. The Act makes children the objects of its provisions, rather than the holders of rights.
Though some related laws which cover areas like child trafficking, domestic violence etc. are in place but those are not completely focused on the children’s rights. Moreover, there is no comprehensive public system to protect children from violence, abuse or exploitation in Bangladesh. A lack of adequate support services for children prevents full implementation of existent government policies while many of these policies are not child friendly and in direct conflict with the CRC.
To ensure a better future for Bangladesh, it is vital that the children grow up in a condition where their full potential can be nurtured and we are still far behind in that respect.
Basic needs of children must be fulfilled for which the overall economic development is required. We need to get rid of the underlying poverty throughout our country. Most developed countries of the world takes responsibility of the basic needs of the children but we do not have such facilities as we are still striving to become a middle income country. We should initiate some support program to improve the lives of children.
We must invest more on their quality education. Up to secondary level schooling for boys and higher secondary level schooling for girls should be made free. Proper educational facilities with good teachers must be ensured. The curriculum should cover uniformity of topics and should include correct history of Bangladesh. Recent trend of question leak must be eliminated from our education system to protect morality and ethics of our future generation.
Medical facilities must be available at rural levels to protect the children from premature deaths, especially in the cases of child marriage. Good doctors must mandatorily serve at rural areas with full dedication to the patients. Proper medical supplies and equipments must be available at least at union levels.
Playing fields and recreational centres must be created for children, Along with the government, the private sector and the NGOs should invest in this area which will lead to the mental development of the children.
Strong punishment must be assured for punishing any child related crimes. Child labour, child torture, killing, rape and any other form of abuse must be met with exemplary punishment. The punishment should be such that others do not dare to commit such crimes. Law enforcement agencies must be more supportive and prompt to protect children.
Bangladesh has certainly improved in ensuring children’s rights over the years as it was highly focused in Millennium Development Goals and is prioritized in different human rights indexes. Still, many things need to be done for the children of our country. Here we are not only protecting a human being, we are saving and preserving the future of Bangladesh. They are facing a very delicate situation today, including many suffering sub-human lives. And, we therefore need to provide them a great childhood. Hence, we must act together to protect even a single child of Bangladesh and to ensure his rights.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)