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Rape, sexual abuse, torture on the rise

Special Correspondent
A total of 271 children died after rape, sexual harassment and physical torture while 1,006 fell victims to such incidents across the country in 2018, according to UNB. Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), a non-government organisation that works for marginalised communities, revealed the study at a press briefing titled ‘Situation of Bangladeshi Children: From the page of Newspaper’, held at the National Press Club on Sunday.
As per the survey, 129 children were abused and tortured by their teachers. Among them, 70 children were physically tortured, 33 fell victims to sexual harassment and 17 were raped by teachers.
The survey was conducted analysing reports published in six national newspapers—Prothom Alo, Jugantor, Samakal, Ittefaq, the New Age and the Daily Star.
The number of such media reports and death toll was higher last year than in 2017, when 208 reports cited 224 victims, the MJF report said.
Of them, 227 children were killed in 2018 and 196 the previous year, while the injured were 49 last year and 28 in 2017, it adds.
Some reasons for child murders that the newspapers reported were family dispute, wealth, refusal in relationship, illicit relationship, protest, failed rape attempt, and refusing to give extortion money.
Addressing the press conference, Prof Shahnaz Huda of the law department at Dhaka University said one of Bangladesh government’s initiatives to reduce violence against children is to formulate law.
However, law formulation is not sufficient to reduce violence against children despite having provisions like death sentence in a rape case, she said. One of the aims of establishing laws is to deter perpetrators from repeating same offense, she said.
“However, this is not happening in our country because of the ‘culture of immunity’ in most cases, when the perpetrator knows he or she will get away with economic or political influence,” she added.
The MJF report says 345 news reports citied 356 child rape victims last year. Of them, 22 died.
In previous year, the number of such reports was 456 and victims were 472, it adds.
In cases of attempted rape, 53 reports were published about the same number of victims. In previous year, 41 such reports about 45 victims.
The report also says the highest number of children — 412 — was killed and 133 more injured in road accidents last year.
Whereas, 364 reports on road accidents had 452 child victims in 2017, it says.
In 2018, the newspapers published 56 stories on sexual violence against children citing 77 victims. One of them died.
In 2017, news reports on similar issues were 81 and affected children were 101.
Some 88 reports mentioned 98 child victims of kidnapping incidents last year. Of them, 19 were killed. On the other hand, such reports in 2017 were 69 and the victims were 72, says the report. In cases of child marriage, last year 11 news reports were published citing 177 victims all over the country, it says.
In 2017, media reports on child marriage were 36 which cited 525 victims, it adds. In 2018, 38 children became victims of trafficking and 22 news reports were published in this regard, whereas such news reports were 10 and the victims were 80 in 2017, the report mentions.
Three children became victims of political violence last year and two of them were killed. Two news reports were published to this end. Five such reports were published in 2017 that cited 54 victims. Two of them were killed.
Last year, 156 news reports cited death by suicide of 152 children whereas 203 news reports cited death by suicide of the same number of children in 2017, the MJF report says. There were five news reports on six acid victims last year.
One alarming finding by MJF was that last year 70 children were physically tortured and 17 were raped by their teachers.
The situation of the country’s children was not improving despite various initiatives by both government and non-government organisations were in place, said MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam.
One reason might be that the number of children was increasing. It could also be, violence was increasing in the society, she said. She said legal procedure should be strengthened so that the victims get justice.

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