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Rape of Children: A Fate Worse Than Dying

DHAKA, Jan 11, 2018 (BSS) - When a girl child smiles in a cute expression at home or goes to school without facing tension or any form of gender based violence and says proudly that she is enjoying the way she likes, then it seems a divine blessing prevails somewhere around.

And when a small girl falls victim to a dreadful rape incident, then it becomes a fate worse than dying or a life in the hell. A child, an easy target of abuses, cannot stand for own defense, thus becoming a cheap prey to exploitation like physical tortures and rape.

Around 57 million of Bangladesh's at least 160 million population is assumed as children but one can seldom fix a child's age since the country witnesses the lowest rate of birth registration, leaving the children away from their rights or protection.

Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) recently came up with a truly horrifying report that around 28 children were murdered and 49 raped in Bangladesh every month last year. Legal tangles, delayed justice and a kind of impunity encourage such crimes, it observed in its annual report-2017.

The report, "State of child rights in Bangladesh-2017," mentioned 339 children were killed and 593 raped in 2017, up by 28 percent and 33 percent respectively from the previous year. The network of 269 NGOs working on child's rights, the BSAF is also worried over a special provision in the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 on child marriage at any age under some circumstances.

The government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the budget allocations for around a dozen ministries working on child issues for the current fiscal year that could only help improve the situation provided the money is well spent, the report observed.

On the other hand, a suggestion put forward by BSAF chief Emranul Huq Chowdhury during the launch of the report to form a separate child directorate is supposed to contribute enormously in coordinating the child- focused programmes of various ministries and ensure their accountability.

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque, as the chief guest at the event said, "An outline had been proposed pertaining to the setting up of a child directorate but there has not yet been any progress as to what would be its functions."

Bangladesh signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) in January, 1990 and ratified it in August the same year. The government with the national and international NGOs has been working for the children, now enjoying the exact definition of children and adolescent.

The present government has scored a tremendous progress in all fields bringing Bangladesh to the closest proximity of being a developing nation soon. A commendable progress is also being sighted in the birth registration, schooling, elimination of child labor, child marriage restrain act and ban on physical tortures.

For the sake of their survival, the poor children have to take up obviously odd jobs at a very early age and eventually get into the risks of bonded labour, sexual abuse, trafficking and other forms of violence.

The Victim Support Centre (VSC) under the Women Support and Investigation Division at Tejgaon thana in the capital rescues such victims and provides physical and mental supports along with rehabilitation. Set up in 2009, the centre is being run by 24 female police officers and 10 partner NGO representatives.

When a child is taken into safe custody, the centre gives legal assistance, psychological counseling and thereafter helps him/ her to return to families. If this approach fails, one of the 10 partner NGOs takes up the responsibility of the victim.

Dr Zahedul Islam Zadu of Aparajeyo Bangladesh, a partner of VSC, says they try to support such victims to get a smooth transition into regular life again. These underprivileged children are exposed to harsh realities from early age and sexual abuse causes more mental and physical pain than trauma.

"All they need are activities to help them cope with this pain. They need tender love and care and the ability to depend on a supporting adult they can look up to. We have various physical and social activities to keep them occupied and divert their attention from their past," he said.

If we are unable to reintegrate the child with his/her family, Zadu said, we give them the option of continuing their studies or provide life skills training and try to employ them ourselves, or provide reference so that they get jobs and are able to lead a respectable and normal life.

Apart from the Tejgaon support centre, there is also a 24- hour toll-free 'National Helpline' at the government's Centre for Violence against Women and Children. It also provides information on existing legal provisions and activities of government agencies and NGOs.

As part of a joint government and UNICEF initiative with Aparajeyo Bangladesh, there exists another helpline exclusively for the children, being implemented by the Department of Social Services with GrameenPhone as the telecom partner.

Besides, local and global NGOs like Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Save the Children Bangladesh, UNICEF, Odhikar, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, Dhaka Ahsania Mission and Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) have been working on protection of the child's rights in Bangladesh.