Child repression and killings have, in the last few years, increased precariously across the country, and the questions that have come to the forefront of the media relates to why such crimes have been increasingly taking place in Bangladesh and how the same can be combated nationally. Incidents as such include abusive behaviour against house maids, or rape of minors which also sometimes lead to killings.
As seen in most media reports, most often the female children are primarily the victims. In a report by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) working to protect and promote child rights, it was revealed that in 2017, 22 children were murdered after rape among the 593 incidents of rape that were found. 25 such incidents were reported in 2018 (January to April). Moreover, 176 children were raped, and 109 were killed during this period.
There can be many reasons behind the recent trend in the increase of child killings. One of the most important reasons to be outlined is a culture of impunity throughout criminal justice system and that lets the perpetrators take advantage of the loopholes of the legal system. In an investigation upon the five Nari-O-Sishu Nirjatan Daman Tribunal in Dhaka, the case registers showed primary information of 7,864 cases filed from October 2002 to October 2016. In 110 of these cases, perpetrators were sentenced which indicates that in 97 percent of the cases, the accused persons get exempted either before the trial begins, or later. Though in some of the cases, trials led to justice being served to the victim and the victims' families, most of the survivors often are left with improper service from administration of justice. Negligence and inefficiency during investigation, disappearance of witnesses, harassment of the victim or victims' family members and bribery to the police are the most common causes that pose a hindrance on the way of redressing the grievance of children, abused or tortured.
In addition to the problems in the criminal justice system, the overall social transformation and rising of slum cultures are also adding incentives to this phenomenon. Due to the increasing volume of city-centric floating people, escalating insecurity and lack of effective law-enforcement activities, cities tend to be more prone to rape and sexual abuse of young children. Moreover, the social institutions for example family, schools, religious institutions, etc. are not functioning in a way that it should be, i.e. they suffer from the inability to create proper knowledge about ethics as well as morality and normative principles or to create a secure environment. It is unfortunate that there have been many incidents of child abuse within the core social institutions as well.
Against this background, there should be several initiatives that can work towards the prevention and combating of child abuse and repression:
♦ Enforcement of laws and landmark case laws: The culture of impunity is a cause as mentioned earlier that needs to be stressed on with more awareness. The 2000 Nari O Sishu Nirjatan Daman Ain should be properly implemented in order to provide the highest punishment for such heinous crimes, specially when the victims are children and/or belong to the most vulnerable groups of the society. Since, there is no appropriate provision of negotiation between the abuser and the victim under this law, the courts must secure and render justice by providing maximum punishment in cases concerning child abuse and killings and stay aware of out-of-court settlements.
♦ Separate offices for child directorate/commission for child protection: There have been calls from NGOs and civil society organizations to establish a separate directorate under the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs or a commission for the protection of child rights. The separate forum will effectively function and proactively respond to incidents of violation of child rights.
♦ Awareness creation within social institutions: This obligation lies on every social and legal institution in the society of Bangladesh from family to media, and from government to non-government actors. The family or the parents for example must equip children with knowledge of potential threat to them and preliminarily give ideas of self-defence.
♦ Making of Rules of the Children Act 2013: The Act of 2013 has replaced an old law with a view to safeguarding the rights of children. However, the Rules in compliance with the Act are yet to be promulgated and thus there are still grey areas for the protection of rights of children in conflict with the law which ought to be addressed as well.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Dhaka.