36% of girl children in the country fall victim to sexual harassments from friends online, findings from a survey conducted by Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK) suggest. The survey was conducted on 178 children, of which 27% are found to be sexually harassed by adult relatives and 18% by unknown adults. The report has been presented in a webinar titled "Analysing the Current Situation and Law Review to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Online" held on 25 February 2021.
The survey included 82 boys and 96 girl children, among which more than 8% of the girl children were victims of sexual abuse and harassment online. Approximately 8% of the children were victims of cyberbullying and came across sexually suggestive content online. 23% of the girl children came across sexually suggestive content and 46% were asked to form sexual relationships.
The survey report suggests that more than 64% of the children who participated in the survey have mobile phones of their own, while others use the phones owned by their parents. 63% of male adolescents aged 15-18 years get more opportunities for internet consumption than their female counterparts.
The loopholes of the existing laws to prevent such cases of harassments were also discussed at the webinar. According to UNICEF, 25% of children in the country get access to the digital sphere before the age of 11. The shift of academic lives from schools to online due to the pandemic has made the children more prone to sexual harassment online, according to the speakers at the webinar.
According to the ASK's information unit and data collected from 9 national leading dailies and online media, 35 children were reported to be sexually abused online in 2011, which increased to 71 in 2020. 399 children are reported to be sexually abused online from 2011 to 2020. After the formation of the cyber tribunal in 2013, there were 3 reported cases, which increased to 721 in 2019. Currently, there are over a thousand cases ongoing.
Minister of Post and Telecommunication Mustafa Jabbar said in the webinar, "The children are yet to be fully developed in terms of intellect, which is why this challenge is not for them. It's a challenge for the parents, the teachers and the government."
Subrata Roy, Vice Chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) advised the parents to follow proper parental guidance to prevent these incidents of abuse. M.A. Hakim, President, Internet Service Provider Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) suggested that BTRC can form a cyber awareness unit and start a cyber 999 helpline to raise awareness and prevent cybercrimes.