May 19, 2013 | 12:15 AM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
Children justice system in Bangladesh
Justice M Imman Ali :
(From previous issue)
23. It shall be the duty of the police officer or the court to determine whether it is safe for the child to return with the parent or guardian. If necessary, the child shall be asked about these matters confidentially and without presence of its parent or guardian.
24. A child shall not be separated from parent or guardian save in exceptional cases.
25. In the absence of a parent or guardian a relative or other fit person may be entrusted to keep the child in safety.
26. The government must provide sufficient number of places of safety, at least one in every district, so that such a place safety is easily accessible from any part of the country.
27. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and Ministry of Social Welfare should provide training for their own officers as well as for the probation officers, managers and concerned staff employed in the safe homes and other places used for detention of children.
28. The government should ensure training in good parenting and for awareness developments in the community to establish child protection and rehabilitation of deviant children in the community.
29. Laws are required to be formulated for victim and witness protection in order to avoid harassment of the victim children and to ensure effective prosecution of offenders, keeping in mind the need to maintain confidentiality, privacy and dignity.
30. Informal atmosphere should be ensured in juvenile courts in order to protect child/youthful offenders, child victims and witnesses.
31. The concerned Ministries should consider the need to formulate community' based committees to develop child protection mechanisms, skill development training and training in child rights.
32. The state through its relevant Ministries shall take the necessary steps to identify children at risk of committing offences and at risk of being exploited by adult criminals for criminal activity, i.e. young children engaged in theft, robbery, picketing, vandalism, as carriers of drugs and arms, explosives, member/ informer of criminal gangs and suicide squad and showed identified the reasons behind the criminal activities of children and address the root cause of such deviant behaviour.
33. The concerned ministries shall take appropriate measures to form, strengthen and activate Upazila/Union/Ward level child protection motivational committees and community - based committees set up for ensuring and monitoring child protection in their locality .
34. The government should take steps for setting up a system and mechanism for the rehabilitation of victims of crimes.
Suffice it to say that the genesis of all these cases which came before the Courts was the general lack of clarity in the provisions of the existing law and the lack of proper understanding by the actors involved with children. In the most recent decision, State v Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, the Police arrested and lodged FIR against three children, a girl aged 7 years and two boys aged 8-1/2 and 13-1/2. Clearly there was patent violation of the Penal Code, which is most fundamental. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure and logistic support. Having 23 Probation Officers for a population of 160 million is pitiful. Japan has a force of 50,000 voluntary Probation Officers for a population of about 127m. There are hardly any facilities for alternative custody of children, e.g. with relatives or foster families.
If our attitudes towards children in need of care, including those which have developed deviant behaviour, changes favourably than there is a great prospect ahead for all the children of our country. The International instruments have provided many beneficial provisions, ideas and suggestions which can be fruitfully utilised for the benefit of our children who come into contact with the law. The NGOs are engaged in assisting the children to achieve what is best for them. By motivating the community and with the help of the government in setting up the necessary infrastructure for the community-based alternatives and the informal methods of disposition, one believes that the children of this country have a great future. With a healthy and law - abiding youth population we can all look forward to a safe and secure society. Let us strive to do better for our children as it is they who will carry on our legacy.
We must bear in mind that children do not come into contact with the law of their own volition. No child is born a thief, beggar or a street - child nor wants or expects to be a victim of any crime. We must realise that young offenders are usually also victims, not just of crime but of neglect and abuse. The reality is that children come into contact with the law as a direct or indirect consequence of activities of adults. They become petty thieves due to poverty and lack of proper guidance from their parents. Children who come into conflict with the law are in reality, invariably victims. They are usually victims of exploitation, seduction or threats. All said and done the unfavourable situation of our children stems mostly from poverty. It is my humble opinion that those agencies, both local and international, with the heart and the will to better the lot of the impoverished and vulnerable children of this country, must strive to strike at the roots of poverty and aim to empower the parents and the community to better look after their children. All parents strive for the best interest of their child. Poverty stands in the way. Resources must be aimed to alleviate poverty and empowerment of caregivers. The guide lines are there as discussed above.
I shall end as I always do by saying:
LET ALL OUR CHILDREN HAVE A CHANCE - WE OWE IT TO THEM
[The author of this article Mr. Justice M. Imman Ali is the honourable Judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.]
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