Towards justice for children

Protecting children in conflict with the law

Children walk in a dark alley at Chittagong

The challenge

Implementing laws for protecting all children is a big challenge

Like adults, children can be in conflict or in contact with the law. They also encounter the justice system as offenders, victims and witnesses.

For observers of juvenile justice in Bangladesh, the Children Act 2013 provides much hope. But implementation of laws protecting all children continues to be a challenge.

Bangladesh is a state party of UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC), which requires it to implement the provisions at a domestic level.

The CRC sets the legal definition of a child as an entity separate than adults. Children therefore must be provided with special protection and care. Bangladesh has made significant progress toward this end but is still lacking in full compliance.

The government should consider raising minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 16, with a view of raising it further.

The CRC requires state parties to adopt alternatives rather than to detain a child offender. Detention is a last resort and even very serious child offenders cannot be jailed with adults. But alternative methods are still lacking.

The Children Act paves the way for Child Welfare Boards, child-specialised police desks, Children’s Court and safeguards bail provisions and legal representation – but these components need more human resources, funds and clear jurisdiction.

More professionals, like probation officers and social workers must be urgently recruited into the system.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility should be raised to at least 16

The solution

The Convention on the Rights of the Children sets the legal definition of a child as an entity separate than adults

UNICEF has entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh Supreme Court to speed up the implementation of the Children Act.

As part of the formal agreement, UNICEF designs initiatives to increase the implementation capacity of stakeholders at national and divisional levels.

The multi-disciplinary trainings are joined by police officials, probation officers, judges, lawyers and administrative officers.

The trainings aim to provide a thorough understanding of the roles of different stakeholders, without which effective implementation is slow and delayed.

In all eight administrative divisions of Bangladesh, UNICEF sets up consultations for effective functioning of the Child Welfare Boards and quality management for structures accommodating children in conflict with law.

UNICEF encourages application of child friendly procedure in child courts and police procedures that give primary consideration to a child’s right to protection.

UNICEF supports the piloting of child friendly environment in Children’s Courts and Police stations. The interventions also promote restorative justice for repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour.

Adolescent boys in an interactive advocacy session

UNICEF supports life skills training so adolescents can manage diverse risks and challenges without resorting to violence