Promoting Child Rights

Child Act 2013: A milestone for protection of vulnerable children

Child Act 2013: A milestone for protection of vulnerable children

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Jamil Mahmud            

Child Act 2013: A milestone for protection of vulnerable childrenThe Child Bill 2013, passed on June 16, 2013 by the National Parliament, was published through a gazette notification on June 20.
The new act is harmonised with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and has referred to the CRC in the preamble and replaced the Child Act 1974.
The Child Act 2013 is drafted by the Ministry of Social Welfare and consists of 11 chapters and 100 sections.
The act recognises an individual [aged 18 or below] as a child, providing a universal and internationally recognised definition for a child.
“The passing of the act is a great milestone for children in Bangladesh,” UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Pascal Villeneuve said in a statement.
The act has a provision for child victims and witnesses cementing legal instruments for their protection, including compensation for victims.
Unicef formulated a framework of child-focused budget in partnership with the government and Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, a think tank.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith at an event recently said the government would consider a child-focused budget from next fiscal year to ensure equitable rights of children and spur inclusive growth.
For children in conflict with the law, the act reinforces the importance of diversion (alternative procedure and care) in the juvenile justice system. There is provision for separate Juvenile Courts.
It also includes the provision for Child Help Desks in the police stations and a designated skilled child-friendly officer.
Welcoming the act, Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker told The Daily Star the act would enhance police department’s responsibilities to children.
He said the police department would carry out its responsibilities according to the provisions of the act.
According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2010, the child population (under 18 years) in the country was 61.3 million. A report by National Taskforce on Releasing Children from Jail says, in November 2009, the number of children aged under 18 in adult jails were 205.
Another UNICEF report says 10 per cent of total children in the country are involved in different hazardous works.
“The confirmation that everyone under the age of 18 years is legally a child must stimulate action to ensure that existing laws on child labour and child marriage are strictly adhered to,” said Save the Children Country Director Michael McGrath.
Different sentences including imprisonment and monetary penalty have been mentioned in the act for abusing and involving children in illegal activities.
The act has given preference on family based alternatives for children without parental care and other vulnerable children.
Establishment of Child Welfare Board is a key in building the system from the national to the district and community level that has been provided in the act.

Child Act 2013 at a glance
* The new act abolishes the early Child Act 1974.
* The Child Act 2013 features 11 chapters and 100 sections.
* The act recognises some organisations and members and mentions about their responsibilities.
Probation Officer: According to the act, the government will appoint one or more Probation Officer/s in the district, upazila and metropolitan areas.
Child Welfare Board: A National Child Welfare Board will be formed. The minster of the Ministry of Social Welfare will be the chairperson of the board. Boards at the district and upazila levels will also be formed. District Commissioner and Upazila Nirbahi Officer (sub-district executive officer) will be the presidents of the boards respectively.
Child Help Desk: Under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Child Help Desks will be formed in police stations all over the country. An officer, ranked sub-inspector or above, will look after the desk. The act specifies responsibilities of the designated police officer.
Charge Sheet: The act specifies about submitting charge sheet against children. According to the act, a single charge sheet consisting of adults and children cannot be submitted.
Juvenile Court: At least one juvenile court will be formed in district or metropolitan area. If a case is filed against a child, whatever crimes s/he committed, the juvenile court will try him/her.
Arrest: According to the act, whatever the circumstance is, child aged below nine cannot be arrested. If a child above nine is being arrested, law enforcers cannot apply handcuffs and rope around waist to the child.
Sentence: Individual/s will be sentenced with maximum five- year imprisonment or a penalty of Tk five lakh or both, if a child is being abused in criminal activities.
Role of Media: Media is prohibited to publish articles, photographs and information that go against a child under trial.
English version of the act has not been published till date.

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