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Dhaka Tribune

Survey finds 30% children were abused online during pandemic

Study by rights body ASK finds over 8% girls have been sexually abused online

Update : 28 Feb 2021, 08:47 PM

A recent study by a rights body found that 30% children in Bangladesh were abused online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) revealed the findings of its survey, conducted in 2020, during a media call at the National Press Club.

The study was aimed to assess the situations posed by sexual abuse against children and to get factual data on the risk that children face online, it said.

“We have the Digital Security Act, but unfortunately it does not have any provision on online abuse of children, which has caused violence against minors, especially girls, to rise,” Ambika Roy, ASK’s Child Rights Unit coordinator, told the press conference.

A total of 108 children — 61 girls and 47 boys — from the districts of Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, and Satkhira were surveyed for the study.

Among them, 83% were students and 17% were working children, including 6% children with special needs.

According to it, 30% of children reported that they had been abused on the internet in one way or another. Over 56% of them were girls.

The survey also found that 88% of the respondents, who were abused online, had been harassed mostly by strangers. Among them, only 41% reported it to their parents and family members. A meager 6% of the respondents initiated legal actions against offenders.

54% of the respondents said they owned an electronic gadget while 84% of the children surveyed for the study said they were on social media.

Almost 59% of the respondents reported that they use social media because of peer pressure. 

A little over 8% of girls interviewed said they have been sexually exploited, harassed, and abused online, according to the ASK study. “But this has increased almost four times now compared to the Covid-19 times,” it said.

ASK recommended including cyber security issues in textbooks, raising awareness among the parents as well as using parental control applications.

Pending cases of cyber bullying of children should be handled separately under the cybercrime tribunal, it added.

The rights body also urged to amend relevant laws, including the Digital Security Act. 

Between March and September of 2020, a total of 1135 cases had been filed in the country, up by 29% than the previous year.

Most of them had been filed on charges of sexual harassment, according to the ASK.

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