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With a tumultuous political history, rallies, meetings and processions is nothing new in Bangladesh. Alongside adults, children have often participated in these political programmes, sometimes based on their own conscious decision and sometimes following their elders. However, recently, children have been forced to participate or paid in cash or kind by political activists to take part in party programmes that often turn violent. In addition, adolescent children are being misused to carry out political violence. The “Children’s Opinion Poll on their expectations from the Political Aspirants and Leaders on Socio-Economic Rights of Children” explored this area by asking children whether they felt that children are being wrongly used in political activities and how should such abuse can be stopped.
Majority of the respondents said that children get involved in political activities through older people and in most cases in return of money. In many instances, parents send their children to take part in political activities such as hartals to earn money.
There were more than half a dozen questions related to children’s involvement in political activities in the indepth interview portion of the research. Many of the questions were targeted solely to slum dwellers and street-based children, who are basically used by local political leaders during political gatherings, and general strikes. The research findings show that getting involved in these programmes these children often to do get the chance to continue studies and get stuck into political violence.
However, those who patronise children to engage in political activities do not back them up when children face legal or health problems. Children who become physically disabled after getting hurt in political programmes do not receive any financial help from their political patronisers, the study found.
On this matter, children expect that political aspirants and leaders of all the parties will not allow children below 18 years to join politics and they will not use them during political activities. Many have demanded to ban student politics.
Interestingly, with regards to the ways children should be involved in politics, the responds varied between the household and online survey.
In the household survey, most of the children (76 per cent) reported that children can participate in election campaigns if they want to involve in politics. Other responses were, they can attend political meetings/lectures (60 per cent), political rallies (52 per cent), and can even do picketing during strikes (32 per cent).
Information gathered through online survey indicated that, most of the children think that children can be involved with politics mostly through political seminars (58 per cent). Other responses, of getting involved with politics were participating in election campaign (5 per cent), attending political meetings (4 per cent), political rallies (3 per cent), and picketing during hartals (2 per cent).