Protect children and women from abuse
We are appalled by the latest data on child marriage revealed by the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum. Reportedly, from January to August this year, as many as 2,301 girls fell victim to child marriage in 28 districts of the country. This means an average of 288 child marriages took place per month in those districts alone. During this time, 574 girls were also raped there. Of them, 84 were gang-raped, and 43 had different types of disability. We wonder how the situation has come to this point despite there being government institutions, law enforcement agencies, and various private organisations working to prevent these crimes.
The advocacy forum, in its "Girl Child Situation Monitoring Report-2022", has also revealed that in the first eight months of the year, 76 girl children were sexually harassed and tortured, 136 fell victim to kidnapping and trafficking, 186 were murdered, and 181 died by suicide. And not only girls, boys are also increasingly becoming victims of sexual abuse around the country. According to another estimate by Ain o Salish Kendra, at least 44 boys were raped during the first nine months of this year.
While these findings by different organisations suggest a bleak scenario in terms of women and children's safety, they do not reveal the full picture, however, as they have been collected mostly from national and local dailies. And such crimes are often underreported.
While these findings by different organisations suggest a very bleak situation in terms of safety, they do not reveal the full picture, however, as they have been collected mostly from national and local dailies. And such crimes are often underreported. Unfortunately, we still do not have any comprehensively prepared and updated national-level database on child marriage and violence against women and children. So, how will the government assess the actual reality of problems facing vulnerable sections of society? We urgently need such comprehensive data leading to comprehensive response. What we know from various newspaper reports is that the rate of child marriage has increased manifold during the pandemic, as did school dropout rates of girl children.
That being said, we think the government can still do a lot to stop child marriage and violence against children, including boys, based on available data. A number of rights organisations regularly prepare reports on these crimes and violations of human rights. But what is the point of preparing reports if appropriate measures are not taken to address these issues?
The government must ensure that those involved with the crime of child marriage do not get any patronage from the administrations and local political/social leaders. It must also ensure speedy prosecution of child abuse and rape cases. The National Girl Child Advocacy Forum has called for establishing a separate directorate for children, raising awareness on the issue and proper enforcement of relevant laws to stop child marriage and abuse – demands that experts made frequently in the past as well. We need strong action now. We urge the government to take these recommendations seriously to improve the safety of women and children.