Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sexual abuse, exploitation of children in Bangladesh appalling

Lack of confidence of justice delivery system, sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Bangladesh skip prosecution

SALEEM SAMAD

CHILDREN IN Bangladesh are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, not only behind the closed doors of brothels but also in households, academic institutions and on the streets, revealed a UNICEF study on Tuesday.

Nearly 50 percent of the girls found engaged in prostitution had been sexually abused before joining the sex trade. The ‘slippery slope’ imagined from sexual abuse to prostitution to trafficking suggests a moral descent.

This study exposes the serious issue of sexual abuse of boys which has failed to be properly recognized in the past. Alarmingly, is that boys are becoming frequent clients of prostitutes.

Poverty-stricken Bangladesh boast of conservative culture, is an overwhelming Sunni Muslim majority where overtly speaking of sex is a social taboo.

The study made it clear that sexual abuse of children and their exploitation in prostitution derives from deep structural and societal problems coming from relationships between adults and children and how gender and sex are understood in a society of socio-economic inequality.

Most child sexual harassment cases in Bangladesh do not go for trial as the victims have no confidence in the justice delivery system. Efforts should be made to increase the number of prosecutions for sexual abuse of girls. Laws exist but the application is difficult, observed social anthropologist Therese Blanchet who conducted the study.

The study reveals that greater attention is given to ‘manage’ the dishonor and minimize social consequences while little support is offered to the traumatized person who is expected to silence her pain.

Despite the cultural limitation, the report recommends to introduce sex education in schools to prevent sexual abuse, stressed the need for strengthen employers’ responsibilities to prevent sexual abuse in the workplace.

Blanchet suggests that girls and adolescents engaged in prostitutions should be carefully looked at to improve ways to ‘recover’ and ‘reintegrate’ them back into the society.

UNICEF works for children's rights, their survival, development and protection calls for coordinated efforts to end both sexual abuse and commercial exploitation of children as child sexual abuse is widely ignored compared to commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking. [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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