VOICE FOR child rights
The concept of treating childhood as a special phase of life and the recognition that children need a special and different treatment than adults is a major achievement of modern human rights jurisprudence. The reluctance of our society to accept this idea has often been of negative consequence towards ensuring child rights. The issue of child rights is perhaps dealt with less seriousness is evident today as the literature on child rights in Bangladesh is very scant. A recent book namely Shishu Odhikar (Child Rights) by Nazmul Huda Shamim demands an attention. The book, written in Bangla and published in January 2017, covers many areas concerning child rights.
The book contains ten descriptive chapters and relevant legislations, policies and international conventions have been added in the appendix of the book. Readers might face a slight difficulty in understanding the organisation of chapters of the book. Chapters V and VI deal with nurturing and flourishing of children. Chapter V, bearing the spirit of child rights conveys an important message about the relation between children and development. It argues that development should not be measured by economic gain solely. Rather, the contemporary sustainable human development thoughts call for 'flourishing lives' where people, especially children can fully develop their potentials to be the ideal development agents.
Chapter VI enumerates the idea of primary care of the fetus to children ageing six years (pre-school level), considering this period particularly sensitive for the overall development of children. It introduces World Bank's idea of different packages of primary care for different stages of childhood. Author's advocacy for age appropriate treatment of children in this chapter seems impressive.
Chapter VIII is a well written description of Children's Courts under the Children Act 2013. The following chapter is dedicated to probation which is a reformative disciplinary method applied to children in conflict with the law (those in breach of criminal laws).
Chapters II and VII respectively deal with the child rights and right to education. Special attention to the children's right to education or more specifically 'education in its real sense' is appreciable. Two most crucial problems of children of Bangladesh, child labour and child marriage, as discussed in chapters III and IV, draw a better focus on problems of children. Chapter III discusses about many concepts associated with child labour including the concept of the worst form of child labour or hazardous work for children.
Regarding child marriage, the author could have done better by combining two distinct chapters (chapters IV and X) together. Moreover, the discussion on child marriage is based on the old legislation, i.e. the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. In the context of the newly enacted Act of 2017 on child marriage which controversially has introduced a lenient age restriction, the book's new edition is expected to deal with this issue from a critical perspective.
The author tried to relate different contemporary incidents involving children to the existing laws and international instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Children, the National Children Policy, the National Labour Policy, and the National Education Policy. It was a commendable work indeed. A concluding chapter summing up the whole book and synthesising the arguments could, however, be useful for the readers.
The writer is Lecturer in Law, Daffodil International University.