Protecting child rights and ensuring child safety
Md. Shairul Mashreque and M. Abul Kashem Mozumder :
Contemporary concerns about human rights have now been focused on empowerment of the children as a vulnerable group. But empowerment of the children is not possible without thinking to protect child rights according to constitutional provisions and international conventions on child rights. Empowerment of child goes hand in hand with institutional intervention for the protection child rights. Policy makers perhaps realize the importance of putting children first who will greatly influence future of the nation. Policies especially in various trajectories of development have their impacts on how human capital is mobilized and managed.
True, families of the young people like children make decisions that tend to shape their future. Some children are detached from their families of orientation. They are destined to live alone in the street taking decisions for themselves for a bare survival in an unfriendly street situation. Admittedly public policy and the institutions for its advocacy, formulation, implementation and evaluation have impacts on well beings of the child community per se obviously with the great chunk of opportunities for utilization of their potentials. Public policy can do much in determining forward course of action as for child rights.
Nevertheless any institutional and non-institutional attempts to empower children to enable them to enjoy rights and privileges may be hampered by crushing poverty and more by policy failure that affects their options and investment on children when markets are going beyond control. Standing at the new millennium international policy communities especially the donors think to invest in young people. Given demographic transition bulge in youth population has become a matter of grave concern. Children upto 18 years old are among the youth as the next generation. There are children who are infants and toddlers at the early childhood stage. UNCRC, several child laws and acts are institutional milestones that definitely shape the foundational human capital touching upon the children from early childhood to adult childhood. Even then they are confronted with new challenges including health and education. They have to struggle hard to survive the scourge of childhood.
There is a need to understand child rights as an academic discourse. 'Save the Child' has come with a policy advocacy to incorporate child rights in the course curricula at the higher education level. In Bangladesh academic planners are thinking to introduce course on Child rights. As far as my knowledge goes many departments in Dhaka, Jahangirnagar and Chittagong universities have introduced full credit course on child rights. The Master of Laws: Advanced Studies in International Children's Rights is a one of a kind program, offering an advanced master (LL.M) dedicated to the rights and interests of children from a legal perspective.
Today - more than 25 years after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - the role of international, regional and domestic systems in issues of child protection, participation and empowerment is ever-growing, and requires in-depth specialization.
We should also think to open new department on human rights emphasizing child rights governance. Perhaps law faculty or department has academic programme on child rights and legal aid for the child victims. 'International children's rights is a unique area of law because it is multi-layered (covering international, regional and national legal systems) and interdisciplinary in its scope. The program provides an in-depth study of the field of children's rights, and pays particular attention to its intersection with diverse fields of law, including human rights, civil, criminal, humanitarian, family and migration law. The multi-layered and legal interdisciplinary nature of the program is an essential element in acquiring specialist knowledge on the meaning and implications of international children's rights for the position of children at the international and domestic level, in both the developed and developing world.
The programme is characterised by small-scale teaching, which encourages intensive interaction between students and lecturers. Students in our Advanced Masters programmes come from various countries, and from diverse cultures, which contributes to a truly international study environment.'
The government of Bangladesh endeavors to promote advancement of women through policy intervention. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is the nucleus of all development activities so far as women and child are concerned. It has adopted National Action Plan for the implementation of women development policy with representatives from different ministries, women's organizations and civil society. Among others the committee addresses several issues, including gender sensitive budget, implementation of High Court verdict to prevent sexual harassment, security of women in mass media and other fields of work, full list of martyred female freedom fighters and Birangonas (Liberation War Heroine) and construction of infrastructures for the disabled in the action plan. A recent quantitative study by the World Bank (WB) on gender reports that 'Bangladesh lies in the low per-capita range and its gender development is also very low. There are accompanying safety nets or relevant operations, but in general they failed to mitigate adverse impacts on women per se.'
Bangladesh is a society with patriarchial preponderence. Here gender discrimination is ubiquitous. Dependence of women on men is admittedly great. Despite 'constitutional affirmations of gender equality' and legislative measure gender discrimination renders it difficult for the policy makers to estabilsh gender justice. women and young girls continue to be a fragile locus. 'Traditionally, women were often discouraged from participating in public life. Women's access to social, economic, political and legal institutions is mediated by men. Women are mainly recognised only for their reproductive role. However, due to increased poverty and an increased demand for labor, female employment has risen since the mid 1980's. Men's authority over women is reinforced by pervasive gender-based violenc
A female gender expert attempted to give an idea about Sex, Gender and Gender analysis. She opined that "sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is meant by the term "gender", and how it differs from the closely related term "sex". "Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as the relations between women and those between men.
These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context/time-specific and changeable.' "Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context. Other important criterion for socio-cultural analysis includes class, race, poverty level, ethnic group and age Male" and "female" are sex categories, while "masculine" and "feminine" are gender categories. The socially-constructed concepts of masculinity and femininity; the "appropriate" qualities or characteristics that are expected to accompany each biological sex. Gender analysis examines the differences in women's and men's lives, including those which lead to social and economic inequity for women, and applies this understanding to policy development and service delivery. It is concerned with the underlying causes of these inequities.
Gender analysis aims to achieve equity, rather than equality. Gender equality is based on the premise that women and men should be treated in the same way. Long standing gender norms and values mean that 'women typically control less power and fewer resources than men. Not surprisingly, this often gives men an advantage - in the economic, political, and educational arenas, but also with regard to health and health care' (www.who.int).
The gender issue itself concerns policy actors stake holders associated with emerging civil societies. Civil societies and NGOs like seek to address the state of gap in gender development in a characteristic fasion within the framework of national plocy strategy. Now the concepts like women, empowerment, women emancipation, feminist movement, women rights, gendrjustice are favourable ones found in the vocabulary of human development. Women development plans with these favourable concepts remain a dead letter whatever well intentioned they might be. However recent institutional interventions have generated some success stories. Needless to mention Bangladesh, a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). The concerned institutions feel committed to attaining the objectives of ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women. As policy reports stated 'Bangladesh Government has been actively engaged in formulating proactive policies and taking affirmative actions for accelerating the implementation process in achieving the goal of holistic empowerment of women. Over the last couple of decades the initiative to ensure equal rights of women and nondiscrimination has gained momentum in Bangladesh and has been successful in mobilizing and coordinating women to stand up for their rights. However, relentless endeavor is underway on the part of the Government by way of adoption of policies, legislation, strategies, national action plans and programs for realization of empowerment of women.
The pro-women policies, strategies and measures of the government undertaken in the last decades have positively influenced the reduction of poverty of women. A number of programs were undertaken by government that includes safety net, development activities, etc. The NGOs have micro credit programs for production and business by women. Private sector generated employment for women especially in garments sectors.
The government and NGOs are promise bound to address women development focusing on the following five areas - food and nutrition, health, education and empowerment of the girl child, protection from abuse, exploitation and violence and physical environment. In addition, other policies have been formulated such as education policy, health policy etc. to improve the quality of life of the children with special focus on girls traced' (www.mowca.gov.bd).
Women are victims social violence and as well as natural calamities such as 'political conflict, social discrimination, arsenic contaminated water, salinity, drying of wetlands, deforestation, use of agro chemicals, industrial waste, inappropriate land use, building of dams and embankments; and floods, cyclone, and droughts'. Consequent upon climate change cyclones such as Sidr and Ayla caused considerable damages and climate displacement. Migration to cities been occurring with greater intensity and more frequently. Despite great difficulties and resource constraints, the Government has tackled the situation effectively.
(Md. Shairul Mashreque Professor (retired), Public Adminstration, Chittagong University and M. Abul Kashem Mozumder Pro-VC BUP).