Nine out of 10 children experience some form of violent disciplining by their caregivers, according to a recent survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Unicef, released yesterday.
The percentage of children aged between one and 14 years who experienced physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers was 88.8 percent in 2019; this figure was 82.3 percent in 2012-2013, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2019.
The survey was carried out on 61,242 households from all 64 districts, between January 19 and June 1 last year.
The BBS survey also indicated that Bangladesh still has to go a long way in reducing cases of child marriage as data shows more than half of the women aged between 20 and 24 years were first married before the age of 18 (51.4 percent), while 15.5 percent were married before the age of 15.
Although the rate of institutional child deliveries has increased -- with 53.4 percent of women giving birth in a healthcare facility, compared to 31 percent previously -- Bangladesh is facing a massive boom in the number of caesarean sections, commonly known as C-sections.
According to the survey, 36 percent of women aged 15-49 years who gave birth in the last two years had a C-section; this figure was 19.1 percent in 2012-13.
Over 25 percent of the women aged 15-49 years said their spouses had justification in beating them if they went out without telling them, burnt the food, argued with them, failed to take care of the children, and refused to have sex.
The net attendance rate in primary school stands at 85.9 percent, somewhat higher compared to the previous MICS round where it was 73.2 percent. Nevertheless, 13.1 percent adolescents are out of lower secondary school. The drop-out rate is particularly high among boys. One in five (18.1 percent) children is out of lower secondary education.
The literacy rate of women increased to 88.7 percent from 82 percent previously but sadly, exposure to mass media has decreased. Only 0.5 percent women read a newspaper or magazine, listen to the radio, or watch television at least once a week; this figure was 1.6 percent in 2012-13.
Ownership and use of technology has increased over the past years as currently 71.4 percent of women aged 15-49 years own a mobile phone, and 97.8 percent had used a mobile phone in the three months prior to the survey. However, only 12.9 percent of women used the internet.
One of the most positive developments was a sharp decline in chronic malnutrition as measured by stunting levels, which fell from 42 percent in 2012-2013 to 28 percent in 2019.
All child mortality rates (neonatal, post-neonatal, infant, and under-five) have had a downward trend in Bangladesh over the last 30 years, according to the survey.
Other welcome findings include an increase in the availability of drinking water, better access to and use of toilets, an increase in the net attendance of children in primary and secondary schools, and an increase in birth registration.
However, more needs to be done quickly if Bangladesh is to achieve its ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Saurendra Nath Chakrabharty, secretary of the Statistics and Informatics Division, said, "The new set of data available from this round of MICS continues to promote a data-driven public discourse and policy making for the betterment of children in Bangladesh as a middle-income country."
Alain Balandi Domsam, Officer-in-Charge Representative, Unicef Bangladesh, said, "The findings of MICS 2019 will help us identify those who are left behind in the country's development process so that we can take action and reach the children whose needs are the greatest."
It is critical to break gender stereotypes and transform social norms that perpetuate gender inequality, he said, adding, "Bangladesh cannot wait to invest in its children and youth if it is to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend. The country has only 11 years to go before this unique window of opportunity closes. It is essential to increase investment to strengthen systems and to build structures and capacities to accelerate the SDGs in Bangladesh."
At the end of last year, legal and human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) also revealed that the rate of violence against children has increased alarmingly, as has the multidimensionality of the violence committed.
Nina Goswami, senior deputy director of ASK, said since it is linked with women's issues, incidents of violence against children do not receive sufficient attention. "If there is a separate commission or directorial, it will be helpful to rethink what more we should be doing to ensure the protection of children," she said.