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A pointer to incumbents’ apathy to child rights

THAT the police are yet to appoint child-friendly officials at different police stations across the country, including the capital Dhaka, in defiance of a High Court order could ultimately be construed as the Awami League-Jatiya Party government’s general apathy to child rights and disregard for the orders of the highest judiciary. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Saturday, the court on September 3, 2009 ordered that ‘Each police station shall have at least two police officers, of whom one shall be female, to deal with cases involving children in contact with the law.’ The police headquarters did issue an order in line with the order, stating that the second officer of a police station would work as the ‘child-friendly officer’. Almost three years on, officers-in-charge of different police stations in the capital claim that the higher authorities have neither appointed any ‘child-friendly officer’ nor entrusted any of the existing officers with the ‘specific responsibility to work as child-friendly police officers’. According to them, what they have been asked to do is to ‘deal with children with care’. Meanwhile, to the utter disappointment of the child rights watchdogs in particular, a bill seeking enactment of a comprehensive law on children, which proposes appointment of at least one police officer — not below the rank of a sub-inspector — at each police station to deal with children exclusively and provision for recording the depositions of children by him/her in the presence of parents and probation officers appears to have been sent to cold storage, although the cabinet reportedly approved it in principle 15 months back.
The indifference of the police, and the government for that matter, to children does not end here. As stated in the New Age report, despite repeated rulings on the part of the High Court that declared keeping children in prison instead of juvenile development centres illegal and therefore ordered removal of all children from prison ‘forthwith’, twenty-one children aged under 16, according to a statement by the prisons directorate dated October 1, 2011 — are in different jails across the country. It is indeed an irony that, under such circumstances, the National Children Day, declared by the incumbents marking the birthday of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding president of the country, was observed on March 17 with much fanfare, particularly on the part of the government authorities concerned.
The government needs to take immediate actions to sensitise the police and other relevant authorities about child rights in the first place. Concurrently, it needs to take effective steps to enact the proposed comprehensive law regarding children, incorporating the court’s directives, without any delay, apart from taking the police to task for its failure to comply with the latter.

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