In our everyday life, we go through many issues which are associated with our daily life happenings. Even we always remain very excited with many international issues as well. To do so we always avoid and overlook many important issues of our life. Among these issues, sexual oppression against female children draws our attention less.
Yes, sexual harassment of children, especially the female children is a very common phenomenon not only in a third world country like Bangladesh but also worldwide. Female children are at risk of being abused or being harassed in their own houses, communities, workplaces, schools, by relatives, family-friends, school stuffs and even sometimes by the guardians, caregivers and the house tutors as well.
The Children who have physical limitations are more vulnerable to such incidents. Most of them basically know who their abusers are. Basically girl children are the subjects of harassment in many ways but sexual harass-mental issues are difficult to access with because of the vibe of shame they bring and risks children face in reporting them. In some of the cases, female children, working as maid servants in houses also very commonly familiar with such and regularly being harassed by their recruiters and such rate is much high. Such types of issues have become a very common practice in our society in many ways.
Often primary school girls are being harassed by their school stuffs, canteen stuffs and transport stuffs. They face harassment from their family members as well, in their homes, which pretended to be the safest places for them. Some of them couldn't understand these harassments because at such stage of life, it's very difficult for them to determine what affection is and what harassment is. So, the chance of sharing such incidents with parents or any authoritative body is really low. Many of them might be able to understand such incidents whether it is harassment or not. Though they understand it, they never raise their voices or they don't protest due to many social obstacles. Sometimes they face mental trauma.
As a lawyer and legal practitioner, I have never faced such types of cases. I have worked two years in the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Tribunal-3, Dhaka Judge Court, under Special Public Prosecutor Advocate Mahmuda Akter, in my early practice days. But there, I haven't found any such complaints.
I have thought many times that why complaints regarding sexual harassment of female children never comes to the court premises for seeking justice. We often receive many complaints from adult girls about their sexual harassment by men but never received complaints from anyone regarding sexual harassment of a female child. I was thinking a bit and got surprised as well because such problems seem to be very common in our society and have been overlooked by everybody. We didn't even file any cases or never faced any complaints regarding the matter in our court premises. I have talked to some of my senior colleagues about the topic and they also didn't face any cases on this matter.
Most of our school going girls may face such problems at their early stages of life. Children cannot understand because they face such problems in places which used to be the safe zones for them like schools or homes. If someone realizes it, he/she shares with their parents or they remain calm and feel very shy to share the matter. And even parents, after hearing the matter, never come to court premises to solve because in our society, somehow people treat such problems very silly ones and don't want to go further with such problems. They also think that their family and social bondage will be hampered.
They consider such problems as the week points of their children and remain calm. They think if they raise their voice she will be exposed as well as their family and the society will always treat her like an abused one and in future, the girl will suffer socially.
Even no cases have been filed here regarding such matter; the senior colleagues said that they would love to receive one. Some have said that this is not a matter which can be solved by court. There are many more serious issues than this.
Now I will go straight to the point whether there are any laws regarding such child abuse or harassment. In our core criminal law which is the Penal Code of 1860, there is no provision regarding such matter. But we have a special law which is the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act 2000 (amended in 2003) and here, according to section- 10,
whoever , to satisfy his sexual urge illegally, touches the sexual organ or other organ of a woman or a child with any organ of his body or with any substance, his act shall be said to be sexual oppression and he shall be punished with imprisonment for either description which may extend to 10 years but not less than 2 years of rigorous imprisonment and also with fine. Again said that, whoever, to satisfy his sexual urge illegally, assaults a woman sexually or makes any indecent gesture, his act shall be deemed to be sexual oppression and he shall be punished with imprisonment for either description which may extend to 7 years but not less than 2 years of rigorous imprisonment and also fine.
These are the relevant sections and punishments, which is laid down in the Act. According to section 14, it is also stated that, any news ,information or name & address or any other information regarding any offence under such Act, committed or any legal proceedings where a woman or a child is the victim, shall not be published or presented as the acquaintance of the woman or the child shall be disclosed.
So, we can see from the above information that, according to section 10 of the Act, female children are having protection and the punishment for the offenders is quite rigorous. The victims of such harassments will also be liable to get special treatment and their identities must not be disclosed publicly as well. But most of the people are not aware of these protective measures.
But another important and surprising matter is that, in the Children Act of 2013, there is no provision related to such offences or incidents. No section has covered this area of child abuse or harassment where it is important that Children Act must cover such areas more specifically because this Act is formed to give special focus and priority on the matters related to children.
There is no law or instruments or specific legal statute in the schools as well for the protection from such harassment of minor girls by the school stuffs which is now necessary to have one for every school. Anyone who wants to file any case regarding such must file under the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act 2000 (amended in 2003).
Now if we look at the preventive measure section, many preventive measures can be taken to deal with such problems. We need to raise awareness among parents first because they are the first option to deal with such problems. If children face any problems regarding any matter, they at first go to their parents to solve it. So, they need to know about the proper protective measures which are available to ensure protection and justice for female children. Each and every school should have a particular monitoring cell or stuffs that will look after such matters.
There must be a legal memorandum for every school in which the behavior of the school stuffs will be laid down and if any complaint arises the accused one shall be suspended immediately and report the matter in the School committee and police station as well. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs must deal with the matter with full focus and arrange many workshops or campaigns to raise awareness among people. The Education Board can be involved here too.
The parents and teachers needed to be more careful about these matters and they need to be free and frank with the children so that children can share these incidents freely with them. Every school should have a child specialist or psychiatrist who can arrange weekly sessions with the children to know their traumas and establish a friendly connection to identify these matters easily.
The writer is a lawyer. He teaches Law at Central Women's University, Dhaka.
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