The national helpline for women and children has received a staggering 84,000 calls in nine months, indicating a steep rise in their rights violations and abuse, government data shows.
“We have received about 300 complaints daily on an average during the first nine months of this year,” Abul Hossain, director of the government project told the Dhaka Tribune.
To improve the situation, experts suggest setting up a second platform where the victims can move if the state fails to protect their rights.
However, this will require the government to ratify the Optional Protocol 3 (OP3) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC) is the treaty which establishes an international complaints procedure for violations of child rights.
Speakers came up with the suggestion at Sunday's seminar – 'Child Protection Status in Bangladesh: Importance of Ratification of OP 3 to CRC' – organised by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), SOS Children’s Villages International and Terre des Hommes Netherlands at BIAM Foundation.
BSAF's Emranul Huq Chowdhury presided over the seminar, which was attended by, among others, National Human Rights Commission chief Kazi Reazul Hoque, Director General of the foreign ministry's UN Wing Sadia Faizunnesa, and Country Director of Terre Des Hommes Mahmudul Kabir.
Bangladesh opened a toll free 24/7 helpline '10921' in 2012, with Denmark's support. The National Helpline Centre for Violence against Women and Children is maintaining the service.
“It is a confidential service that offers legal advice, police assistance, telephone counselling, referrals to other organisations services, and information regarding violence issues,” its website says.
Mamunur Rashid, manager of Save the Children, in his keynote speech emphasised signing OP3, saying it would provide solution to the ongoing crisis. “Even the Child protection committee and UPR also give recommendation to ratify OP 3,” he said.
The OP3 CRC allows children from countries that have ratified to bring complaints about violation of their rights directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child if they have not found a solution at national level.
Replying to a question, Rashid said if a child complains to the UN, the UN can give suggestions to the state to solve the issue.
In his presentation, Rashid noted that child rape was up by 161% in 2015 compared to 2014. Last year, there were an estimated 521 child rape victims against 199 the year before.
The situation shows no sign of improvement as 325 child rapes were reported in the first nine months of 2016.
An estimated 228 children also committed suicide for various reasons last year. This year, from January to September, 107 children have taken their lives.
Sadia, DG of foreign ministry's UN Wing, said Bangladesh had signed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development's 17-point agenda also pushes for ensuring child rights.
“We also welcome the OP3 but before ratifying this we need to increase our capacity to response to any complaints within the right time and raise awareness,” she added.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune about the helpline, Project Director Abul Hossain of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women and children said most of the calls they had received were from people seeking information – where should they go or where they would find help.
“Many of us are unaware of the helpline,” he said. “As part of our publicity campaign, we are printing the number – '10921' – on the textbooks that will be distributed at the beginning of next year.”