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2017 in review: 13 children killed every week between January and November 2017

  • Published at 01:32 am December 30th, 2017
2017 in review: 13 children killed every week between January and November 2017
A 12-years-old boy, a domestic help at a garment accessories trader’s house, was beaten to death in Dhaka’s Adabor area on Saturday night. His employer Sheikh Jubair Ahmed told a Dhaka court that he used to beat the boy, Al Amin, for every single mistake. Al Amin was killed merely six months after taking the job to support his family. Police said the employers were so careless that they did not even notice when Al Amin died because of their torture inflicted mostly by Jubair’s wife Sayeda Rahman. Right activists say such incidents have become common, particularly over the last several years. The situation worsened in 2017, according to rights bodies. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR), Bangladesh Mahila Parishad are the key organisations maintaining the statistics on child deaths. The statistics reveal a disturbing pattern in rise of crimes against children. Figures provided by ASK show that 574 children were either killed or committed suicide between January and November this year. It means a child was killed almost every 15 hours. In its report, ASK said at least 27 were killed after being raped while one was killed as the perpetrator failed to rape her. At least five children, who were domestic workers, were beaten to death this year. Fifteen other child household helps were killed mysteriously. Apart from them, more than 20 children were found dead under unclear circumstances throughout the year. Ninety-five children were tortured to death by their parents. Besides, 61 children were killed after being abducted. Police recovered the bodies of 91 children during this period. Altogether, 111 children killed themselves. Among them, 72 were aged between 13 and 18 years. However, BSAF listed 196 incidents of suicide by children in these 11 months. The BSAF said that 166 children had also gone missing during this time. Almost half of the rape victims are children. There was a rise in the number of rapes last year. Data provided ASK, BSAF, BSEHR, and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad show that the situation worsened in 2017. Mahila Parishad said 1,189 women were raped between January and November. Among them, 206 women were victims of gang rape and 54 were killed after they were raped. The statistics did not mention the age of the victims. The number of female rape victims in 2016 was 1,050 while 1,090 women and children were raped in 2015. The Mahila Parishad said around 107 women and children were raped in a month. BSAF, on the other hand, said 548 children were raped in the first 11 months of this year -- around 50 victims per month. Among them, 66 were gang-raped. Besides, 43 victims were either physically or mentally challenged. BSAF did not keep a record of women who were raped. Data from BSEHR and ASK also reflect the grim scenario.

Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017

Rights activists have been protesting against the government’s decision to allow underage marriages in “special cases.” But despite the opposition, Parliament passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 in February, with a special provision that enabled guardians to marry off their underage children in “exceptional cases.” The special provision, Section 19 of the law said, if any marriage takes place in line with the directives of a court and consent of the parents or guardians alongside specific process in special context for the best interest of an underage female, such marriage will not be considered an offence. However, the law did not mention the minimum age for marriages under the special context, which referred to the situation when an unmarried girl gets pregnant. Rights activists decried the move, fearing that the legal loophole could be manipulated to force victims of rape or sexual harassment into marriage with the offender. Bangladesh has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world. A petition filed by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association is currently being heard by the Supreme Court. The number of child marriage increased in the six months following the Act’s passage but has been on the wane from October. Last year, the number of child marriage reported from across Bangladesh was 177, according to the VAW (violence against women) chart made by Mahila Parishad. But from January to November this year, the number had risen to 194, averaging some 18 marriages each month. According to the VAW chart, 17 child marriages took place in January and February. However, between March and September, 168 child marriages were reported -- about 24 marriages each month. The number fell to six and four respectively in October and November. BSAF sources said the number of unreported marriages could be as much as 10 times higher than what is being published in newspapers. The government plans to formulate a policy and set up assessment committees in every upazila to make sure that the special provision is not manipulated. Right activists say the new year will show how much the government has been successful in tackling the situation but insisted that dropping the special provision would be more effective.

Why is rights situation deteriorating?

Right activists say violence against women and children is increasing consistently and the situation is deteriorating day by day. Prominent rights activists Sultana Kamal blamed the culture of impunity for the deteriorating situation. BSEHR Chairman Sigma Huda said the culture of impunity encouraged the perpetrators in a way that now they dare to kill the victims after rape. “The government and all of us have to take responsibility for the deteriorating situation,” she said, emphasising working together to curb violence against women. “We need to ensure strict punishment for the culprits,” she added. BSAF Chairperson Emranul Huq Chowdhury said the local government administration and police were not playing their roles actively. “Besides, the punishment given by mobile courts for child marriage is not strong enough,” he noted. “That’s why such incidents keep recurring.” Advocate Salma Ali, who moved the Supreme Court against the special provision, welcomed formulation of a policy to prevent misuse of special provision. “But the policy should reflect the two rules issued by the High Court and should be in favour of the people,” she said. NHRC chairman Kazi Reazul Haque emphasised the need to form a child commission and ensure strict monitoring by the law enforcers.