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.