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Violence against children in Bangladesh remains invisible to a large extent. Be it at home, educational institutes, work place or on the streets, children frequently face violence in the form of physical, sexual and mental abuse. Often the abusers are family members, relatives or someone close to the children. Disadvantaged and disabled children and girls are more vulnerable to violence.
For girls growing up in slums violence is an unavoidable element of their daily life. According to a baseline survey conducted by iccdr,b and Population Council in the slums of Mohakhali, Mohammadpur and Jatrabari, 76% of the women and girls surveyed had endured physical or sexual abuse , with 43% having suffered both physical and sexual abuse. An overwhelming number of cases of violence take place against adolescent girls, states the study.
Teenage girls and their parents in different slums in the capital argued that gangsters and unruly boys in the slums pose constant threat to young girls, especially unmarried ones. Oftentimes, they are harassed on their way to and from work and school both physically and mentally.
Many girls bear the harassments without voicing any resistance because if they complain, the community inevitably ends up blaming the girl for “inciting” such behaviours. There is also an acute shortage of support institutions that can give them social, psychological and legal help in dire situations.
Families constantly worry about their young unmarried daughters’ safety, and end up marrying them off at a very early age.
As many as one-third of all girls in urban slums get married before the age of 15 years, about 31 percent involve dowry and 61 percent are arranged marriages, states another research by icddr,b and Population Council.
Acute poverty, insecure living arrangements, frequent forced evictions, weak social network, absence of civil society institutions and poor public services contribute to the vulnerable status of girls in urban slums, states the research.
Disabled children especially those living in the streets are regular recipients of verbal, physical or sexual abuse because it is easier to hurt them and they in most cases cannot fight back, said experts.
Often the violence is perpetrated on disabled children by their peer groups thus making it difficult for them to blend in social settings even attend educational institutions.
Since disabled children are considered as a financial liability they are at times subjected to discrimination and neglect at home. Besides, our society’s overall negative attitude towards children with disabilities makes them vulnerable to violence.
Another sort of violence against children is corporal punishment which almost has a social acceptance in our country. In fact sayings like “There is no better medicine than a good beating” are quite popular among Bangladeshi parents and teachers.
Despite a ban on corporal punishment at educational institutions imposed two years back, students still are subjected to beating and other forms of physical and mental torture as punishment. Even reports of committing suicide by student due to these have often been seen in the newspapers.
Soon after the High Court’s order to stop corporal punishment in schools, the government on August 2010 slapped an outright ban on punishing students.
Sadly, the incidents are still occurring occasionally in different parts of the country as the teachers only receive verbal instructions about corporal punishment without any formal training on imparting lessons and classroom management till now.
Recently, the political turmoil of the country has added yet another risk factor to Bangladeshi children’s lives. More than a dozen children have fallen victim to the violence that resulted from the political stalemate since October last year. Despite repeated requests and warning from different human rights and civil society bodies, no action was taken by the political parties to protect the children from becoming victims of political violence.