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A tale of street children

  • Published at 11:58 pm June 18th, 2019
Street children
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

They require care in their uncertain lives

In Bangladesh, the number of street children has been increasing rapidly in recent years. Mostly, Dhaka city has been facing this problem due to internal migration and people searching for work. Hence, it is near impossible to count the number of street children. 

According to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) projects, the number of street children stood at 1.5 million in 2015, and it will reach 1.56 million in 2024.

What are the rights according to the law?

Laws are not supposed to generalize, but we do. In our society, many look down upon street children with a discriminatory attitude and treat them as non-human beings. Furthermore, we tag them as a “marginalized group” and curtail their rights.

However, the laws are the same for all children, and the street children are no exception -- laws are applicable for them as well. 

According to the constitution, there is protection for every citizen -- which extends over to children -- from all forms of discrimination. All citizens are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection, and must be treated in compliance with the law without any discrimination.

Most importantly, survival rights, development rights, protection rights, and participation rights are also ensured by the convention. But what do we see? The implementation mechanisms don’t match with the prescribed manner of the convention.

The role of street children in nation building

Our country is on the road to becoming a developed nation. To build a developed nation, children play a vital role and the children living on the streets are no exception. 

So, it will be a great move to create plenty of opportunities that allow them to exercise their talents. A few days back, a child called Rana, known as “Gully boy” went viral on social media because of his singing talent. 

It can be assumed that children like him exist in our society who might be part of building our nation’s future if they are properly nurtured.

The government’s role

Naturally, the question arises: Who is responsible, and whose duty is it to ensure all the rights for them? The answer is the government. 

According to Article 17 of the constitution, the right to education is for all, including the disadvantaged children.

Hence, first importance should be given to ensuring education and rehabilitation in order to help children become ideal citizens of tomorrow. 

To reach this goal, the primary role of the government should be to make a system on ensuring their education at least up to secondary level and afterwards ensuring them job security. 

Secondly, because of the environment to which the street children belong, they are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is unfortunate that many of the times, they have been found to be the victims of sexual abuse, physical torture, and human trafficking.

Thirdly, they often have no other choice but to be part of criminal networks, smuggling, stealing, and engaging in commercial sex work due to the dismal condition of their lives. 

Critics may argue that the government is playing their role in bettering the situation, and this may be true. However, the steps are not up to the required standard. 

It is worth mentioning that coming up with new policy regarding the subject matter of street children would be greatly beneficial, where the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs may play a vital role.

Finally, it can be said without any shred of doubt that through ensuring special attention towards the standard of care and living style, the shackle of their miserable lives will be broken. 

Shahriar Bin Wares is a student of law.