Nine-year-old Jeba (not her real name) is going through a very difficult time with excessive genital bleeding and pain, which limits her ability to walk.
While his mother works in a garment factory in Chattogram, Jeba lives with his father and daily aunts in a remote village of Patharghata upazila, in the district of Barguna.
For all the latest news, follow the Daily Star’s Google News channel.
Earlier this month, Jeba’s maternal grandparents took her to their home in Bamna upazila, in the district. On December 19, while other family members were working in the paddy field, Jeba’s 15-year-old step-uncle raped her.
When she managed to escape and shared the incident with her grandmother, instead of taking action, she changed Jeba’s blood-soaked clothes and threatened her with dire consequences if she did mention it. to someone else.
The next day, when the bleeding did not stop, the grandmother called Jeba’s father and asked him to come and take the child to a doctor.
When Jeba’s father took her to the hospital, the doctor confirmed the rape and suggested immediate treatment.
“Jeba’s father immediately lodged a complaint against the attacker with the Bamna police station. We are now trying to arrest the accused, even though all the family members are on the run, ”said the Bamna police station official.
“Doctors told us that if the wounds could be healed and stitched up within 72 hours, they would have healed quickly. Now we don’t know where to take her for treatment,” the father said.
“We are planning to take him to Barishal Sher-E-Bangla Medical College Hospital, as we have heard that the treatment will be free there,” he added.
According to Jeba, during her stay with her maternal grandparents, the abuser tried to sexually assault her on several occasions, but when she shared it with her grandmother, the woman did not pay attention.
INCREASE IN CHILD ABUSE AND TORTURE
Jeba is not alone. According to media tracking data from the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) Bangladesh, even though rape laws were changed last year to allow the death penalty, a total of 813 girls have been raped, 110 of which were raped in the first eight months of 2021.
A total of 79 girls with disabilities were raped during this period, while 127 were subjected to attempted rapes, according to the report.
The actual number is much higher, as more often than not rapes and other sexual offenses go unreported, which were more common during the pandemic.
What is sadder, according to child rights experts, is that although Sustainable Development Goals 16.2 aim to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children by 2030, we are falling behind every day.
Data from the past five years from human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) also shows that incidents of child abuse have broken all previous records during the pandemic.
For example, in 2017 the number of incidents of violence against children was 1,055, which grew to 1,011 in 2018, 1,696 in 2019 and 1,718 in 2020. The number of rape incidents reported was 470 in 2017, up from 1,018 in 2020.
NGCAF data also shows that a total of 193 girls were killed, in the first nine months of 2021, due to rape, sexual assault and family conflict, while a further 153 girls died by suicide. and 140 were victims of trafficking and kidnapping.
A total of 1,253 girls were married off before the age of 18 during the pandemic, according to a forum survey of 136 unions in Bangladesh – from August 2020 to August this year.
On the contrary, information gathered by the Daily Star from 41 upazilas in 13 districts revealed that around 10,741 girls and at least two boys were illegally married during the school closings.
The 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), prepared by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Unicef by interviewing 61,242 households in 64 districts, also found that nine out of 10 children experienced some form of of violent discipline on the part of their guardians.
The percentage of children aged 1 to 14 who experienced corporal punishment and / or psychological abuse from caregivers was 88.8% in 2019; this figure was 82.3% in 2012-2013, he also showed.
SPECIAL MEASURES REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE SDG 16.2
According to experts, we lack specific planning to achieve the SDG 16.2 target. Analysis and monitoring of progress from one goal to another and taking action in this context is also lacking at present.
In addition, due to the culture of impunity, there is little implementation of laws such as the Law on the Prevention of Punishment of Women and Children 2000, the Law on Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) , 2010, the Restriction of Child Marriage Act of 2017, etc. which specifically deal with child abuse and provide remedies for children, they said.
Nasima Akter Jolly, head of NGCAF, believes that although incidents of violence against women go to some extent, incidents involving children go largely unreported.
“There is no audit on this from the government side, while data and observation from non-governmental organizations is not accepted and generally considered vague. Although media reports are sometimes heeded and many promises are made. apart from that, most of them are limited to speeches, ”she added.
“Furthermore, although cases are supposed to be closed within 180 days of their acceptance by the relevant lower court, according to a directive from the High Court, in reality justice is not guaranteed even in 18 years,” she added.
Requiring a separate department for children within the Ministry for Women and Children, Jolly asked, “There is only one additional secretary in the ministry who deals with children’s issues at MoWCA. How is it possible that one person takes care of so many problems? “
“We must protect girls from marriage before the age of 18, in order to avoid all forms of abuse and violence,” said Ambica Roy, coordinator of the children’s rights unit of ASK .
Bangladesh is one of 36 countries in the world where a 13-year-old girl may be coerced into having sex because she may be “married” under special circumstances.
“Parents who marry their underage daughters during the pandemic due to financial instability should be given priority in government social safety net programs,” Jolly demanded.