Report on Children Rights
After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed our spirits, and we have sighed when obliged to confess, that either nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization, which has hitherto taken place in the world, has been very partial.
We have turned over various books written on the subject of education and patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools; but what has been the result? A profound conviction, that the neglected education of my fellow creatures is the grand source of the misery we deplore; and that women in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion.
In the other hand, we see those children are neglected by human in our society. The conduct and manners of women and child, in fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity. One cause of this barren blooming we attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men, who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than rational wives. In a treatise, therefore, on female and child rights and manners, the works which have been particularly written for their improvement must not be overlooked.
The physical superiority cannot be denied–and it is a noble prerogative! But not content with this natural pre-eminence, men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts, or to become the friends of the fellow creatures who find amusement in their society.
This discussion naturally divides the subject. we shall first consider women in the grand light of human creatures, who, in common with men, are placed on this earth to unfold their faculties; and after that we shall more particularly point out our child who, in common with men and women. We pay particular attention to those in the middle class, because they appear to be in the most natural state. It seems scarcely necessary to say, that we now speak of the sex in general. Many individuals have more sense than their male relatives; and, as nothing preponderates where there is a constant struggle for equilibrium, without it has naturally more gravity. We also suggestions for actions at various levels to further the realization of children’s rights.
1.2. Operational Definition:
While most people have some knowledge of the basic human rights enjoyed by adults, there are many for whom the concept of children’s rights is new. It may be helpful for newcomers to the convention on the rights of the child to consider its provisions in relation to the life of a child who is special to them & to their own childhood in order to make children’s rights seem more “real”.
v Who is a Child?
Under article 1 of the convention, a child is defined as every person under the age of 18. All laws, policies & practices relating to children must therefore apply to persons of this age.
The main part of this report describes the situation of the children of Bangladesh in terms of their enjoyment of otherwise of the rights belonging in the first four clusters.
v Rights Clusters:
Rights contained in the convention categorized under appropriate clusters.
Ø Survival rights
Ø Development rights
Ø Protection rights
Ø Participation rights
1.3. Discussion of Children Rights & Their Present Situation:
Children Rights & Their Present Situation & Steps taken by Govt. & NGO’s is given below.
1.3.1. Survival Rights:
A Child’s survival rights comprise his or her rights to those basic things which sustain life, such as health care, nutritious food, clean water & a hygienic environment. The right to survival is expressed in very simple terms in article 6 of the Convention. This article recognizes the inherent right of all children to life & the obligation of ratifying States to ensure as far as possible children’s survival & development.
The article of 24 of the Convention, which states the right of children to the highest possible standard of health & to medical care. They include:
· reducing infant & child mortality.
· ensuring health care for all children
· giving priority of the development of primary health care
· Combating disease & malnutrition by
– providing adequate nutritious food & clean drinking water, &
– dealing with the dangers associated with environmental pollution
· providing antenatal & postnatal care for mothers
· ensuring widespread health education
· developing preventive health care
· developing family planning education &t services.
v Infant & Child Survival:
Bangladesh has succeeded in securing a steady decrease in both the infant mortality rate & the under-5 mortality rate. Between 1996 & 2005, the infant mortality rate fell from 110 to 67 & the under-5 mortality rate from 162 to 121. Death rates for 2005 are markedly higher in rural are as than in urban areas- 50 percent higher for infants & 75 percent higher for children under 5. The world summit goals for infant & under-5 mortality for the year 2000 are 50 & 70 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively. There is a direct correlation between the rate of child mortality, fertility & population growth. In terms of controlling population growth, Bangladesh’s achievements in bringing down child death rates have been complemented by its successes in the field of family planning.
v Disease Control:
Approximately 450,000 children under 5 die every year in Bangladesh6. The main causes of infant & child death are diarrhea, acute respiratory infections & prematurely/birth difficulties7.
The Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) has made a very significant contribution to the reduction of infant & young child deaths. Under this programme, immunization coverage has risen from 2 percent in 1985 to 70 percent in 1996. In that year, amongst children aged 12 to 23 months, 58 percent were immunized against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus (DPT) & polio, 76 percent against measles & 88 percent against tuberculosis. In addition, 59 percent of pregnant women were immunized against tetanus8. The world summit goal for the year 2000 is 90 percent immunization of children aged 12 to 23 months against DPT, polio, measles, tuberculosis, & 90 percent immunization of women of childbearing age against tetanus. An important gain from the expansion of immunization has been the establishment of over 108,000 immunization sites throughout the country, bringing services right into the smallest villages. More than 90 percent of Bangladeshi children have come into contact with health & family planning workers during the EPI campaign.
Over 110,000 children under 5 die of causes related to diarrhea each year in Bangladesh10. Results from the latest MICS give an indication of the current level of illness due to diarrhea: 18 percent of boys & 17 percent of girls fewer than 5 were found to have suffered from diarrhea within the 15 days preceding the survey. The high incidence of diarrhea is linked to poor hygienic & an unclean environment. It has a serious effect on children’s nutritional status. On the positive side, efforts to control diarrhea in Bangladesh have resulted in a death rate from diarrhea cases of only 0.5 percent- one of the lowest in developing countries.
1.3.2. Development Rights:
Many of the rights recognized in the Convention on the rights of the child relate to the development of children. The first, brief mention of development comes in article 6, in connection with ratifying states obligations to ensure to the fullest extent possible the survival & development of children.
Parent’s responsibilities for their children’s development are dealt with in articles 18 & 27. Article 18 states that parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing & development of their children, & makes it clear that this is the joint responsibility of both parents. The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which Bangladesh is also a party, contains an almost identical principle in article 5.
The expansion of early childhood development activities, including low-cost, family- & community- based interventions, is one of the world summit supporting goals in the area of basic education. Research indicates that involving children in simple stimulation activities from the earliest age has a significant impact on the development & formation of their intelligence, personality & social behavior. Such activities can help prepare a child to learn well at school.
Both the Government & NGOs is taking steps to expand early childhood development activities through community- & home-based programmes. Stress is being laid on the important role of parents & other caregivers in promoting the growth & development of infants & young children.
v Early Childhood Development:
Ø Babies begin to learn rapidly from the moment they are born. By age two, most of the growth of the human brain is already complete. For good mental growth, the child’s greatest need is the love & attention of adults.
Ø Play is important to a child’s development. By playing, a child exercises mind & body, & absorbs basic lessons about the world. Parents can help a child to play.
Ø Children learn how to behave by imitating the behavior of those closest to them.
Ø Young children easily become angry, frightened & tearful. Patience, understanding & sympathy with the child’s emotions will help the child to grow up happy, well-balanced & well-behaved.
Ø Children need frequent approval & encouragement. Physical punishment is bad for a child’s development.
Ø The foundations of learning well in school can be built by the parents in the earliest years of a child’s life.
The subject of education is dealt with in articles 28 & 29 of the Convention. The basic right to education is stated in article 28, together with a number of actions which ratifying states must take in order to realize the right. These include:
Ø Making primary education compulsory & free for all children
Ø Encouraging regular attendance in schools & reducing drop-out rates
Ø Developing different forms of secondary education (including general & vocational) & making them available & accessible to all children
Ø Making higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity
Ø Making educational & vocational guidance & information available & accessible to all children.
A variety of factors contribute to the high drop-out rate of children from primary schools. Issues of particular concern to girls have been mentioned above. Perhaps the major reason for lack of confidence in primary schooling is the unsatisfactory quality of education which schools provide. High quality education consists of a number of essential elements. These include a sufficient number of well-maintained & -equipped schools with well-trained teachers, a curriculum teaching methods which make the learning process enjoyable.
1.3.3. Protection Rights:
The group of rights in the Convention on the rights of the child known as protection rights is a large one. It includes all those articles which uphold the rights of children in high-risk or vulnerable situations, where a failure to provide protection would seriously threaten the safety & well-being of the child. The world summit goal for the year 2000 in relation to such children is to give them improved protection, while at the same time tacking the root causes leading to their situation.
v Birth Registration:
Under article 7 of the convention, a child must be registered immediately after birth. A child also has the right from birth to have a name & acquire a nationality.
An accurate knowledge of children’s ages ensured through a system of universal birth registration is essential to the protection of children’s rights under the convention. First, it is necessary to establish whether or not a young person is a child as defined by the convention (less than 18 years) & therefore entitled to enjoy the rights recognized by the convention. Next, there is the application of the considerable number of Bangladeshi laws relating to children of various ages, which either protects them from situations activities considered harmful to them or give them the right to benefits or special treatment. These laws deal with such matters as child labour, juvenile justice, child marriage, education, child trafficking & child prostitution. The absence of any reliable evidence as to a child’s age poses fundamental problems for the enforcement of such laws.
The present low level of birth registration is a clear indication that the system as it stands is not effective. Efforts are therefore being made to try to find ways of increasing its effectiveness. Two initiatives have been taken up in the five districts selected for initial application of the Accelerated District Approach (see epilogue). The first is a pilot project, which uses information available in the couple register & child register (maintained for family planning & immunization purposes respectively) to bring the Union Parishad register up to date.
v Physical & Sexual Abuse of Children:
The right of children to be protected against physical, sexual & mental abuse spans several articles of the convention on the rights of the child.
Under article 19, children have a right to protection from violence, injury, abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation while in the care of parents or anyone acting in their lace. Both physical & mental forms of abuse & maltreatment are included, & sexual abuse is specifically mentioned. Person’s action in the place of parents can include guardians, uncles, aunts, grandparents & teachers. Ratifying states must establish the necessary support systems for children & those who care for them, as well as systems for the prevention, identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment & prosecution of all forms of child abuse.
Children in Bangladesh are subjected to physical abuse in many aspects of their lives. Physical punishment is an accepted method of disciplining children, at home & at school. The physical abuses suffered by children doing different kinds of hazardous work have been described in the previous chapter. Instances of violence by law enforcement officials against children are also described in this report. Both boys & girls are victims of such abuses. There are, however, several further types of gross physical & sexual abuse which are reserved almost exclusively for girls. These include physical torture, rape. Dowry-related violence & acid throwing.
The home Ministry, in a pilot scheme, has set up women’s investigation cells, staffed entirely by women police officers, in four police stations. A plan of action addressing violence against women is also being developed. In this context, the idea of a “one-stop” trauma centre designed to meet the medical, legal, social & counseling needs of victims of violence is being explored.
Until recently, little information was available on the nature & extent of sexual abuse of children in Bangladesh, due largely to the social taboos attaching to the issue. WHO figures for India indicate that 1 in 10 children there is sexually abused. The numbers in industrialized countries are believed to be even higher.
v Children in Conflict with the Law:
The articles of the convention concerning the treatment of children in conflict with the law are long & detailed, reflecting the importance of the rights- including the rights to life & liberty- relating to this area of children’s lives.
Article 40 deals with the rights of children accused of convicted of criminal offences. It begins with recognition of the right of children to be treated in a way which:
· Promotes their sense of dignity & worth.
· Reinforces their respect for the human rights & fundamental freedoms of others, &
· Takes account of their age & the goal of reintegrating them into society.
1.3.4. Participation Rights:
The participation rights of children broadly comprise their right to play an active role in their own lives & in the life of their communities. Examples of particular participation rights include the right of children to have their views taken into account, to associate freely with others & to seek, receive & express information & ideas.
v Respect for Children’s Views:
The right of children old enough to form their own views to express those views freely in all matters affecting them (article 12) in one of the fundamental participation rights. Article 12 has already been discussed in general terms in chapter-1. The following extract from Bangladesh’s initial Report to the committee on the rights of the child candidly describes how far Bangladeshi children’s views are listened to within the family.
v Children with Disabilities:
Article 23 of the convention recognizes the principle that children with disabilities should enjoy a full life in conditions which preserve their dignity & encourage their self-reliance & active participation in the community. The article also acknowledges the right of children with disabilities to special care. Ratifying states must, insofar as resources permit, provide to such children & their parents the assistance they need, including medical care, rehabilitation services, special education, job training & opportunities to participate in recreational & cultural activities.
Assistance should be provided free of charge, if possible. The ultimate aim is for the child to achieve the fullest possible social integration & individual development.
2.1. Discussion of Women Rights & Their Present Situation:
Women Rights & Their Present Situation & Steps taken by Govt. & NGO’s is given below.
2.1.1. Rights in Education:
Research in many parts of the world over the last two decades has consistently shown that if girls are educated then they are more likely to have wider opportunities, more likely to develop self-confidence & be less bound by tradition, more likely to exercise their own rights & their own judgments, more likely to use modern health & family planning services, more likely to share in decision-taking in the home & the community, more likely to send their own daughters to school, and more likely to have children who grow up healthy & well nourished.
v Rights in Law and in Practice: The Case of Bangladesh
Women are favorite subjects of literature, and Bangladeshi women are no exception. The beauty and charm of Bangladeshi women are extolled in poems, legends and short stories. But the suffering of Bangladeshi women hardly comes out in the literature. Bangladeshi women endure oppression and deprivation in their own family, community or in the society at large. They are also subjected to violence and discrimination. In a large country like Bangladesh, with its socio-economic and legal systems biased against the poor and the women, Bangladeshi women are in difficult situation.
2.1.2. Women’s rights in laws:
Under the 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh, women’s rights are protected under the broad and universal principles of equality and participation. These principles are found in the following Articles in the Constitution:
- Article 10 of the Constitution provides that steps shall be taken to ensure participation of women in all spheres of national life.
- Article 19 (1) provides that the State shall endeavor to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens. Article 27 specifies that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law. Moreover, Article 28 (1) provides that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 28 (2) more directly and categorically says that women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life. This latter provision means that all rights mentioned in the Constitution, such as right to life, right to personal liberty, right to property, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to exercise a profession or occupation are equally applicable to women in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has a number of special laws, specifically prohibiting certain form of violence against women including the Penal Code, 1860, the Anti-Dowry Prohibition Act (1980), the Cruelty to Women Ordinance (1983), the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act (1993;), and the Prevention of Repression against Women and Children Act (2000).
2.1.3. Women’s rights in reality:
Despite the legal support for women’s rights, Bangladesh women are still practically not given equal treatment. Practices of inequality are manifold, of which the following deserve a special mention:
- In case of wages in the informal sector, women are paid a lower grade than men for the same work;
- In divorce, women need a court order to enforce their right to divorce, which requires proving the validity of their reason for seeking divorce. Men, on the other hand, do not need such court order and thus they can divorce their wives even without any proper reason, and at any time they wish;
- In inheritance, a woman is generally given half the share of her male counterpart. A son would exclude his paternal uncle or aunt from inheriting from his deceased’s father’s property, while a daughter would not cause such consequence.
Contravening the Constitutional provisions on the right to life and liberty (Article 32), and freedom of movement (Article 36), Bangladeshi women face different forms of violence by men on a daily basis. One research report published in 2000 by a reputed women’s non-governmental organization in Bangladesh shows that 30% of the women in the cities are battered by their husbands, 37% are victims of verbal insults and harassment, and 33% are victims of other forms of domestic violence. Another survey reveals that among the victims of physical violence, 23% are rape victims, 22% acid-throwing victims, 10% burn-victims, 5% are victims of poisoning, forced abortion and other kinds of violence.
A number of traditional practices also oppress Bangladeshi women. Many women have been charged with committing “moral” offences before local religious leaders whose views are generally biased against women. The local religious leaders issue a fatwa (ruling) that metes out punishment to women, such as the humiliating and degrading public whipping and stoning. There is no legal sanction for fatwa; it is simply a part of traditional practice.
Bangladeshi women who fail to pay the dowry to their husbands and their families are subjected to violence. Some have been beaten, set on fire or poisoned. Women who turn down marriage proposals are in danger of suffering violence from spurned men. There is increasing number of cases of men throwing acid to the faces of women with the aim of disfiguring them. One non-governmental organization (ODHIKAR)reported an increasing number of acid-throwing cases – 101 in 1998, 178 in 1999, 186 in 2000, 206 in 2001 (including 33 of the victims who were children) and 247 in 2002
The mobility of Bangladeshi women is also hampered by traditional practices. The observance of pardah (seclusion) is an example of such traditional practices. This practice restricts the movement of women outside the house. And if they enter a public place where men are present, they have to make sure that no part of their body (including their face) is without any cover. In some extreme cases, family reputation is considered blemished if any of the Muslim family’s women fail to follow this tradition.
There are also cases of trafficking of Bangladeshi women to other countries for purposes of forced prostitution. Because of the hidden nature of trafficking, reliable statistics are hard to find. Nevertheless according to one report, the rate of trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh is as follows:
- 200 — 400 young women and children are smuggled and trafficked every month from Bangladesh to Pakistan and Arab countries;
- An estimated 10,000 – 15,000 are trafficked to India annually;
- On average at least 70-80 women and children are trafficked daily from Bangladesh to other countries;
- An estimated 20,000 women have already been trafficked to different countries including girls as young as 9 years old.
Rape cases are also increasing in an alarming rate. There were 3,189 rape cases in 2002, up from 3,140 cases the previous year.
This situation restricts the free movement of women. They fear for their safety. They are not safe whether they are inside or outside the house. Parents, relatives and the women themselves are constantly worried about their physical security. This led to the situation where women cannot anymore freely move around without another person acting as bodyguard, and where parents insist that they return home before its gets dark whether their work is finished or not.
The Bangladeshi government created in 1990 a program in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to assist women victims of violence. Assistance cells have been created in different parts of the country to implement the program. However, the number of such assistance cells is very limited to be able to cope with the demand for service.
Early marriage is another obstacle in promoting women’s rights. The Majority Act, 1875 clearly provides that a woman must at least be 18 years old to be able to get married. This legal requirement unfortunately is disregarded, especially in rural areas. Many marriages are held without the ‘free consent’ of the women. The parents give the consent as if there is no justification for getting the consent from the women. Poverty, family honor, social insecurity is some of the major reasons for early marriages. As a result, the women’s right to education, a pillar for realizing one’s own rights, suffer.
In education, more Bangladeshi boys study than girls. The ratio of boy-girl students in the primary school level has improved with girl enrolment reaching 70% of the boy enrolment level. But the situation in the secondary school level is still bad with girl enrolment constituting only 40% of the boy enrolment level.
In livelihood, Bangladeshi women suffer discrimination in getting bank loans. Since most of them do not have properties of their own that can used as loan collateral, and husbands or male relatives have to give consent to any bank loan transaction, the opportunity for women to access to financial resource from the bank is limited.
Employment of women is still low. This is true for the both private and government offices. And women who occupy government jobs have lower status and very little influence in government decision-making processes.
In politics, while Bangladesh has two women Prime Ministers during the last decade until the present, only 6 women legislators have been elected into Parliament during the 8th National Elections held in June 2001. There are 36 women legislators (composed of 30 members occupying reserved seats for women and 6 elected members), in the 330-member parliament.
v Turning the Law into Practice:
The situation of Bangladeshi women illustrates the problem of turning legal principles into social, political and economic practice.
The discriminatory attitude against women, rooted in the family and extends to the State level, should be ended. Because of the constraints from the family, society and the State in general, Bangladeshi women are not aware of their rights. And even if some of them become aware of their rights, they still would not assert them due to the “ingrained unexpected continuity” (i.e., the traditional belief of keeping women under the shadow of somebody such as their fathers or husbands).
A basic change in the institutional structure may occur if social security for women is ensured. Furthermore, the outlook of the family and society has to change to give more opportunity for women’s protection and participation in Bangladesh. This, in turn, will help women become independent and conscious about their rights.
In this case, the approach may have to be two-pronged – at the level of the family and society, and at the level of the State. This approach mitigates the gap between the laws and the existing practices against women’s rights.
Without the link between the principles and the practice, Bangladeshi women will continue to suffer. This is a sad state three decades after the United Nations pronounced the “Decade of Women (1975- 1985).”
2.1.4. A Declaration of Women’s Rights in Islamic Societies
We, the undersigned, believe that the oppression of women is a grave offense against all of humanity and that such offense is an impediment to social and moral progress throughout the world. We therefore cannot ignore the oppression of women by orthodox and fundamentalist religions. We cannot deny history, which shows that these religions were devised and enforced by men who claimed divine justification for the subordination of women to men. We cannot forget that the three Abraham religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Koran as their respective holy texts, consider women inferior in every way to men: physically, morally, and intellectually.
We also note that, whereas women in the Christian West and Israel have ameliorated their lot considerably through their own heroic efforts, their sisters in the Islamic world, and even within Islamic communities in the West, have been thwarted in their valiant attempts to rise above the inferior position imposed upon them by centuries of Islamic custom and law.
Women in many Islamic societies are expected to marry, obey their husbands, bring up children, stay at home, and avoid participation in public life. At every stage of their lives, they are denied free choice and the fundamental right of autonomy. They are forbidden to acquire an education, prevented from getting a job, and thwarted from exploring their full potential as members of the human community.
We therefore declare that…
Ø The subordinate place of women in Islamic societies should give way to equality. A woman should have freedom of action, should be able to travel alone, should be permitted to uncover her face, and should be allowed the same inheritance rights as a man.
Ø She should not be subject to gruesome ritual mutilations of her person.
Ø On reaching the legal age, she should be free to marry a man of her own choice without permission from a putative guardian or parents. She should be free to marry a non-Muslim. She should be free to divorce and be entitled to maintenance in the case of divorce.
Ø She should have equal access to education, equal opportunities for higher education, and be free to choose her subject of study. She should be free to choose her own job and should be allowed to fully participate in public life – from politics and sports to the arts and sciences.
Ø In Islamic societies, she should enjoy the same human rights as those guaranteed under International Human Rights legislation.
Islam may not be the sole factor in the repression of women. Local, social, economic, political, and educational forces as well as the prevalence of pre-Islamic customs must also be taken into consideration. But Islam and the application of the sharia, Islamic law, remains a major obstacle to the evolution of the position of women.
To achieve these basic human rights for women, we advocate that the question of women’s status be removed from the religious sphere altogether, that governments institute a separation of religion and state, and that authorities enact a uniform civil code under which all are equal.
In the name of justice, for the sake of human progress, and for the benefit of all the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the world, we call for all societies to respect the human rights of women.