Rights activists say the increasing rate of violence against children could call the country’s progress into question
Child sexual abuse across the country rose alarmingly over the last year, according to a report published on Wednesday.
As many as 1,383 children were molested in 2019, which is the highest amount reported in recent years. A total of 2,088 children died an unnatural death in the year, while 448 were murdered.
The recently-concluded year marks an around seven percent rise in child murder cases, and around 76 percent rise in child rape incidents.
However, the overall state of violence against children dropped slightly in the previous year compared to 2018. The child marriage rate also decreased significantly in 2019.
The Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, a national network of 272 non-governmental organisations, based its report on cases from news articles.
The report states that verdicts of 24 child murder cases and 27 child rape cases came out in 2019, which reflects a culture of impunity and lengthy trials of such cases.
"We must bring the rate of violence against children to zero," Nasima Begum, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, said at the report launch programme in Dhaka.
She said, "The dropping rate of child marriage is so satisfactory. Children themselves are aware of the negative outcomes of child marriage and they are now building mass awareness."
Nasima Begum hopes the country will be a role model, in future, for fighting violence against women and children.
Abdus Shahid Mahmood, director of the Shishu Adhikar Forum, advocated for introducing the death penalty for rapists, even for a limited period. He said at least three offences — child murder, rape and kidnapping — should be transferred to speedy tribunals.
He also underscored the role of the elderly, teachers and mass media in restoring social values.
Mahbubul Huq, chairperson of the Shishu Adhikar Forum, demanded a Department of Children's Affairs and National Commission for Children be formed to protect child rights.
He furthered, "Violence against children is totally unacceptable while Bangladesh has graduated to a middle-income country."
Bithika Hasan, gender expert of the Human Rights Programme at the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh, expressed her grave concern over violence against children. She urged the media to circulate the identity of rapists instead of focus on victims.
She said, "Increasing violent incidents could call progress and achievements into question."