Preventing violence and exploitation

Knowledge, action within communities can save our children

Al Amin, 10, works at a garage where he repairs batteries near the Tangail New Bus Stand on 1 February 2014.
© UNICEF/UNI157480/Kiron

Challenges

The laws for protecting children are not yet fully implemented

Children are exposed to many forms of violence across the world.

These can take the form of sexual assault, physical violence, corporal punishment, psychological abuse and neglect. In Bangladesh, children face these abuses in private and public settings, homes, schools, streets, workplaces and institutions.

The laws for protecting children are not yet fully implemented or standardised. Services to children often lack in quality and equity. There is also not enough human resources and funding for institutions that have key roles in child protection.

The status of Bangladeshi children are still rooted in conservative social norms, attitudes and practices that may contribute to critical rights violations.

Violent discipline, sexual abuse, child labour, child marriage and psychological punishment are still common. Poverty is a major issue leading to violence.

Sexual abuse cases are hard to assess. Justice is inhibited by stigma and fear of risks. Parents and caregivers are insufficiently aware of laws and services.

Bangladesh has laws on violence against women and children, but does not cover sexual harassment. Reported incidents of sexual harassment are on the rise. In extreme cases, adolescents die by suicide or become victims of more violence.

There is limited data on abuse committed against disabled children but available information points to a spike in sexual violation of girls with disabilities.

Very young children continue to be employed in hazardous conditions. As many as 1.7 million children, mostly boys, are engaged in child labour. Many young girls are hidden in domestic work.

Adolescent girls experience higher rates of domestic and sexual violence, domestic servitude and exclusion from education, than boys.

Bangladesh also has the world’s highest rate of marriage of girls under the age of 15.

They become more vulnerable to child marriage and trafficking in the context of natural disasters caused by climate change to which Bangladesh is highly prone.

Many married adolescents experience and accept physical and sexual violence. As many as 33 per cent of adolescent girls believe a husband is justified in hitting his wife.

The lack of opportunities for fair employment or apprenticeship is pushing older adolescent boys and girls towards unsafe migration. These children on the move face challenges to their security in all stages of their movement.

Available information points to a spike in sexual violation of girls with disabilities

Child marriage survivor poses with a friend
UNICEF/UNI157981/Mawa
Kolpona was being forced into marriage when she was just 13. But she was aware of the risks and did not agree. She and her friend are embracing in this photo at Sunamganj.
Child labourer at a UNICEF-supported shelter
UNICEF/UNI159688/Khan
12-year-olds Muhammad Shahi spends the night in a shelter supported by UNICEF. He is a labour of Sadarghat Ferry Terminal.

UNICEF works to change harmful social norms that allow children to fall victims to violence

The solution

UNICEF teaches children to seek quality professional support

Enforcing laws that protect children send a strong message to society that violence, exploitation and overall child neglect are unacceptable.

More legal reform is necessary so that the Children Act of Bangladesh is in harmony with international standards set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNICEF provides strategic advocacy and technical assistance to support the implementation of the 2013 Children Act for the protection of children and adolescents.

UNICEF is working to reduce child labour by supporting initiatives to keep children from dropping out of school. To design more powerful preventions against violation, more focus is being put into data collection and research.

Special attention is given to children living with disabilities, children from ethnic or religious minority groups, refugee hosting regions, disaster-prone and other hard-to-reach areas.

Besides its work to strengthen Bangladesh’s child protection system, UNICEF works to change harmful social behaviours that allow children to fall victims to violence.

UNICEF’s work focuses on ward-level, community-level interventions particularly in sub-districts with the highest rate of violence.

Actions are aimed towards urban areas, regions prone to natural disasters and climate change and hard-to-reach areas with higher concentration of vulnerable children.

Moreover, UNICEF encourages children themselves to seek quality professional support and report incidents of violence. The Child Helpline 1098 allows safe reporting and assistance.

As part of UNICEF’s community engagement, student bodies in primary and secondary schools are tasked with reporting cases of corporal punishment and sexual violence.