Politics and the Constitution: Do children matter?

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We are going through a crisis of sorts including many issues we don’t fully understand. This also involves constitutional issues as the parties involved have pointed out which we understand even less.  Most people have no idea about the issues that are making AL and BNP fight each other.

And we are not even sure if people really care. But living in Bangladesh means it doesn’t matter if one cares or not as long as politicians do. At the end of the day, its they who matter. But what are the loss and gains of a society where its ruling class is more concerned about power that governs politics than issues that matter to society?

Do children matter?

Take the simple matter of children’s rights which are affecting many of us. One issue that has been drowned by the political claims and counter claims is that of child rights. Conventional wisdom says that if there is good government, there will be child rights but that as information shows, the co-relationship is not necessarily accurate.

“About 4 in 10 adolescent girls are mildly, moderately or severely thin. 1 in 10 are underweight. 10 adolescent girls in Bangladesh are stunted. (State of food security and nutrition in Bangladesh: 2014)

“Had this been an isolated matter we should have been less worried but this has continued for decades. Amidst all the declarations of being an economic success the pitfalls and limited achievements are not discussed.

Another report say that 26 million children live below the poverty line. Due to poverty, parents refuse education to girl children.

“Girl children are married off for different reasons but mostly due to physical or social security issues. 66% are married before 18.1 in every 2 women aged 20-24 years are married before 18; Bangladesh has the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in South Asia Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of Child marriage in the world. (State of world’s children, UNICEF 2016). Bangladesh also has the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the south Asia region. (State of world’s children, UNICEF 2016) “

We are sitting on a throne of shame.

Children, economics and rights

The Scenario of children in Bangladesh is connected with the economic condition of this county including child labour. 13% of children are involved in child labor. 4.7 million or 12.6% of children aged from 5-14 are in the work force. There are about 380,000 homeless children in Bangladesh and 55% of them are in Dhaka city (Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies).

According to UNICEF only 10 percent of the children under 5 were registered with Birth Certificate in 2006.In 2017 it increased to 53% (estimated Report)

The Birth Registration Act, 2004 amended in 2013 says that every child must be registered within 45 days of its birth. But it is a matter of fact that only 75673 children were registered within 45 days of birth over 3 million children in 2017. This is only 2.52% (Source: Birth Registration Officials)

It has however made great progress under five mortality rate now at 41 per 1000.

Politics and children

Although we are all supposed to be greatly interested in the fate of electoral and political democracy, are people really so keen about it ?  Very few people have dared to ask this question because although we have no blasphemy law in the country, any challenge to anything political is considered blasphemous. Yet the point remains that it’s the ruling class comprising of politicians and other clusters who are setting the national agenda. And that doesn’t include children, the most vulnerable of them all.

Any glance at the media shows where the public interest is. With TVs leading the march, hours are spent discussing politics which are then used to trash and abuse each other. In the longest running feud in political history we are seeing an endless marathon of hostility that has no end.

The politicians themselves don’t know what the answers are and that is why legal experts  have become critical players in the game but no answer can come from them either as many wear political hats, full or part time.

And it’s here that the issue takes on a new turn that affects us all. In the end, it’s the constitution that has the new hand on the meaning of  rule of law of the land. It seems we are forever consulting it when it comes to politics and elections but it has limited impact when it comes to the interest of children. If we are so focused on the politics of adults , when will we play attention to the wellbeing of children ? What does the constitution say when politics doesn’t appear to be enough to take care of the interest of children?

  • Issue 18
  • Politics and the Constitution: Do children matter?
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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