Published:  01:15 AM, 10 January 2019

Keeping our children safe

A report not long ago by the non-government organization Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh noted that that a total of 340 children, including 24 physically challenged ones, had been sexually violated in the country in the first seven months of a year. This number itself is staggering.

However, considering the fact that very often the victims and their families do not speak up against sexual assaults fearing social stigma, it can be said without hesitation that the actual number of occurrences would be much higher. The heinous offense of child sex abuse has risen to such an extent that it has sparked socio-economic and political flashpoints in the country over the last few years. Children in Bangladesh are being abused in every nook and corner of society, including family, school, workplace, and care and justice systems.

A rapid decline in socio-religious and moral values among the people and a lack of proper implementation of existing laws can be held as the main reasons behind the increasing brutality against children. Being weak and dependent on others, children cannot go for legal protection and claim justice for the atrocities they endure.

But the conviction rate of whatever number of cases filed against the huge number of occurrences is also very disappointing. Since the law enforcement agencies do not take the incidents of atrocities against children in right earnest, the perpetrators can easily escape the appropriate punishment.

In a study, BRAC University's School of Law made the discovery that that between 2009 and 2014, the overall conviction rate under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 in three district tribunals, including one in Dhaka, was only 0.86 per cent.

This means, in more than 99 per cent of cases not a single conviction was delivered. The study has identified factors, like false cases, lack of evidence, out of court settlements, weak investigation and case backlog, as the major reasons behind this poor conviction rate.

Thus, the complicity of vested interests and dishonest personnel of the law enforcement agencies in taking advantage of the loopholes of the system only worsen the situation. Consequently, citizens lose faith in the rule of law and on the other hand the perpetrators get encouraged to breach the law.

Since the issue is linked with our children, our future leaders, we cannot but check this scourge at any cost. Keeping the future of our country at stake none of us can feel complacent and stay away from reality. Therefore all of us --- and that means the government, common people, media and political parties --- must show zero tolerance to this heinous crime.

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