Children act still in name only

No children’s court, welfare board, help desk in 2 years

Mohiuddin Alamgir

The children act, passed over two years ago, to ensure children’s welfare and protection, remains almost ineffective as the government failed to make the necessary rules relating to it.
Violence against children, including murders, irrespective of age, sex and class, is increasing day-by-day, but the government yet to set up children courts at all district and metropolitan area, create effective help desks at 617 police stations, and children welfare boards at national, district and upazila levels, as stipulated in the law, said social welfare ministry officials and child rights campaigners.
The government is yet to appoint probation officers at 470 upazilas.
Child rights campaigners blamed lack of will and red tape for the failure to adopt the rules for implementation of the Children Act 2013, passed in the parliament on June 16, 2013, repealing the Children Act of 1974, targeting the benefit of an estimated 70 million children in the country.
Child rights activists said a large number of children were deprived of basic rights. In addition, children were exposed to severe forms of physical and mental violence at home, at work place, in institutions and in other public places.
Child Rights Advocacy Forum in Bangladesh leader and rights activist Sultana Kamal said the law enforcement agencies should work swiftly to curb murders and crimes against children and should take legal measures after arresting the criminals soon.
Child protection officers at UNICEF Bangladesh Shabnaaz Zahereen and Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum director, AS Mahmud, both said effective enforcement of the children act 2013 was hampered due
to the absence of rules.
Social Welfare Ministry secretary Tariq-Ul-Islam said that government is working on adopting rules for the children act. ‘We had sent the draft of the rules to the law ministry about three months ago. Once the law ministry approves it, we will take prompt action’ he said.
Statistics shows a steady rise in the incidents of rape and other sexual abuses of children, particularly female children.
At least 349 children were raped or faced rape attempts in the first seven months of the current year, counting reported incidents. In 2014, 227 children fell victim to rape or other sexual abuses, up from 183 in 2013 and 91 in 2012, according to data compiled by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum.
Most of the victims were in the age group of 13 to 18, according to the forum.
The forum said between January 2012 and June 2015, a total of 235 children were kidnapped and rescued, 199 children were trafficked and rescued, and 468 children faced corporal punishment at educational institutions.
An act is enforced in a legal manner. In context to an act, rules define the guidelines that must be followed for the successful implementation of the act.
The children act has provision for the establishment of at least one children court at all district headquarters and metropolitan areas to deal with children in conflict with the law.
The act has provision for establishment of child welfare boards for children’s care and to monitor, coordinate, review and evaluate the activities of the child development centres and of certified institutes.
According to the act, a probation officer in every district will ascertain the reason for which a child is brought to a police station, to meet the child and assure him that he will be provided with all kinds of assistance.
The children act has provision for establishment of a child affairs desk headed by a child affairs police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector.
Shabnaaz said only 15 probation officers have been appointed so far though the Home Ministry had sent circulars to the all police stations for child affairs police officer. ‘There is no separate desk at any police stations and children courts are yet to be formed,’ she said.
Social Welfare Ministry secretary said absence of rule was not a problem for implementation of law but the rules define the guidelines that must be followed for the successful implementation of the act.

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