Published:  12:30 AM, 11 July 2019

Justice to child is a forgotten subject -- Last Part

We provided training to 1056, participants among them 892 were male and 164 were female the participants were of police Officers, government officials, probation officers and social workers from government and non-government organization. Lawyers and Magistrates are becoming aware and sensitive about Child Rights issues and particularly to children in conflict with the law.

The Government of Bangladesh is becoming proactive and trying to deal with CCL issues at the institutional level. The training was to sensitize the police officers got an in-depth understanding of the UNCRC, National Children Policy-2011, Children Act- 2013 (known as Shishu Ain-2013 and amended 2018), Child Protection and Diversion. Stationery, food, an honorarium and copies of the Children's Act 2013 were provided to all the police officers.

In most of the cases the training organized at venues offered by the police officers, which was very effective and in the few cases the Police Super was present and conducted sessions along with the project trainers on the child rights issues and the importance of the roles and responsibilities of the child friendly police officers.

All the participants were directed to provide a report every month to their senior authority regarding children coming in contact/conflict with the law and maintain and preserve a proper register and documentation at the "Child Friendly Desks" in order to keep a track of the number of children. They also acknowledged and appreciated the work of the IIRCCL- Improve the institutional responses to the children in contact and conflict with the law" project team members.

However, the project is in its fourth year and compared to the widespread problems that plague the issues surrounding children in conflict with the law the project duration is not sufficient. But we are confident that the project will make further inroads in the future months ahead of us.

Since the inception of Aparajeyo has been experiencing working with socially excluded children, youth girls and destitute women and with poor communities. Over the years, it has been able to network and build partnerships/relationship with NGOs both at the national and international level, UN organizations and with several departments of the Government of Bangladesh.

We have been intervening with children in a street situation for over two decades. Through this the organization experienced that a majority of these children often came into contact/conflict with the law. The project had informal working relationships with police station in Dhaka city and released children who were picked up by the police without specific charges and/or on grounds of vagrancy or petty offences.

Therefore, Aparajeyo-Bangladesh designed while European Union financing a four-years project '"Improve the institutional responses to the children in contact and conflict with the law"' in order to address juvenile justice system, its practice, and make proactive and responsive instructional responsiveness of all the relevant institutions in the country.

The project intends to create a replicable model of best practice, therefore, sought to work with twelve police stations by releasing children to the custody and developing child-friendly police through training. It has also formed twelve child welfare committees in all twelve working areas.

It thus appears from the above that our lawyers have been successful in certain areas, while much work needs to be done with respect to other issues. There is now enough material with us to conduct a ground breaking survey and research on the success and failure of the Children's Act and also on the possible defects of the Act which needs to the corrected. It is suggested that an initiative is taken to conduct such a research without any delay

The existing child protection measures provided in the institutions and in detention centres do not lead to the "reform' and "rehabilitation" of the child but rather have a negative impact on the development of the child and her/his role as a citizen in the society. It is recommended that: For detention in police station, there should be a specialized unit/team of the police at every police station consisting largely of female officers should interview children after arrest.

The child should be adequately supervised while at the police station by the unit/team. The police should have the authority to divert the child from the court process or to prosecute and if the latter to work with the probation officer to enable bail to be granted within 24 hours.

This police unit should be sensitized by training in child-development, child rights and interviewing skills.  All police should be made accountable for the children under their care to their superiors. This should ensure the child's protection from abuse. 

Alternatives to detention should be developed through the use of community solutions by locally elected bodies, police, probation officers and courts. Solutions that could be used include: Mediation, Support and guidance to the extended family and the community; Fostering, Supervision by a Probation officer or a competent person, Links to community based organizations to organize support and activities.

Diversion from the formal justice system and from detention. Diversion prior to court is authorized by the Children Act 2013 and the amended Children Act 2018. Although this Children Act 2013 and the amended Children Act 2018 has not been widely known or practiced by the professionals therefore there is a grave need to have a very clear idea, knowledge and practice this new Act for the protection of the children.

However, in many cases police issue warnings, there is some use of the shalish system by NGOs to resolve children's problems at the community level. This is an area that needs to be developed urgently  to tackle for non-serious offenders.

It is recommended that: all but the most serious child offenders should be diverted through these and proposed interventions. These should be promoted through: Good practices, Training, Coordination among the police and probation officers/social workers in contact with parents, locally elected bodies, Community based organisations and NGOs, New forms of diversion should also be developed and mediation systems should be formalized, with the responsibility of social workers to stand in where there are no probation officers.

The writer is executive director, the Aparajeyo-Bangladesh

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