Keeping children safe from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect
Millions of children in Bangladesh are exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation, often by the people meant to protect them. Nine out of 10 children have suffered physical punishment or psychological aggression from caregivers, including their parents and teachers.
Many children are forced to grow up too quickly. Adolescent boys and girls are often sent to work or married off as part of their families’ survival strategy. Nearly 7 per cent of children aged between 5 and 17 years old are involved in some form of child labour, and very young children continue to be employed in hazardous conditions.
Despite a law against child marriage, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. More than half (51 per cent) of Bangladeshi women aged between 22 and 24 were married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage and early pregnancy have serious, lifelong implications for the health and wellbeing of girls. Child brides are more likely to drop out of school, suffer poor nutrition, die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and face increased violence in the home compared with women who marry later.
Millions of children do not even have a roof over their heads but are living on the street and out of school. Children with disabilities are another group of children who are often excluded from education and face discrimination, stigma and isolation.
The struggle for child rights can start at birth. Only 56 per cent of children under the age of 5 were registered at birth, which means millions have been denied their right to identity. Access to justice is another challenge. While there are 102 children’s courts in Bangladesh, more than 23,000 cases involving children are pending trials in the juvenile justice system.
UNICEF is working to build a comprehensive national child protection system to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children.
This is being done by generating reliable evidence to inform advocacy as well as reforming legislation and updating policies in accordance with international human rights standards.
In collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and partners, UNICEF is focusing on three priority areas:
Child-friendly justice system: UNICEF works to ensure a child-friendly justice system for children in contact with the law, including child survivors and witnesses of crime, and child offenders above and below the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
Social service system: UNICEF strengthens the capacity of the social service workforce so they are better placed to carry out their critical role in identifying, preventing and managing risks, as well as responding to harmful situations.
Violence against children: UNICEF works to increase knowledge and understanding of violence against children and women to prevent violence and other harmful practices. This includes empowering adolescents as agents of change, through various programmes to promote life skills.