Children are often being used for political purposes, causing serious harm to them. What steps should be taken to keep children out of politics

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pap01THERE are more than 57 million children in Bangladesh. These children are the future leaders of the country. But they don’t get ample opportunities to grow up as responsible citizens. Poverty, illiteracy, child labour, child marriage and malnutrition are the major obstacles in fulfilling our expectation. On top of that, they are being involved in political activities which are causing great harm to them. Children are being used in different political activities, such as, rallies, political gathering etc. During Hartal they are used for picketing, breaking cars, setting fire on cars or even for hurling bombs. These activities are illegal in the eye of law. This causes serious harm to them. Sometimes it becomes the cause of their premature death. Sometimes they fall victim to serious injuries and lose limbs. Children’s involvement in political activities can destroy their life. Those children who are involved in political activities can’t go to school. It seriously harms their education. Any political violence has a bad impact on their tender mind. They become inspired to indulge in violent activities. They are introduced to different political leaders who use them to serve their own purposes. The leaders give them weapons and in this way a child becomes a miscreant. People begin to fear these children. In other words, their engagement in political violence will ultimately destroy our future generation.
pap02There are many reasons for involving them in politics. As they are small children of a tender age they do not understand what is right and what is wrong. So the political leaders can easily use them in their criminal activities. Poverty is another cause for their involvement in politics. The needy and helpless children are offered money for their political activities. So they engage in this kind of activities without being aware of its bad effect. The street children are the worst sufferer of these heinous acts. Many poor parents cannot but send their children to engage in such kind of activities for poverty. The ignorant people under the influence of some bad political leaders send their children to get involved in political activities. Besides, it is easier for these children to indulge in criminal activities because the police or security personnel don’t suspect them.
In order to prevent children from engaging in political activities strict enforcement of law is necessary. The involved leaders should be punished. Parents should be particular to see what their children are doing. School teachers can play an important role to stop it because during school hours they have to ensure the presence of the students so that children cannot escape and join political activities. Mass awareness campaigns should be undertaken to stop involving children in politics.
Md. Shariful Islam
Govt. Titumir College, Dhaka

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CHILDREN of our country are often encouraged to carry out violent political activities, such as, chanting slogans in processions of different parties, carrying sticks, and even engaging in clashes with cops in and outside Dhaka. They are usually paid a decent amount in return for carrying out all these actions. Rights activists are raising questions over the rampant use of children in violent political activities, terming it an ‘evil-practice’. It is seen that child marriage is used as a formula to secure political ties. Families were able to cement political and/or financial gaps by having their children married. These practices are still going on in our country. When a child should grow up under the care of parents, most of the children of our country go out to arrange their food. They are often deprived of their right to enjoyment. They are dragged by political groups to work for them in return for a certain amount of money. To prevent it, we should make it mandatory for children to go to school so that they can acquire knowledge and in future they can easily get a reasonable job. Stopping physical punishment at school should take the highest precedence. The government also needs to enact laws and implement them appropriately with effective campaigns and awareness programmes to stop physical punishment at schools as many children are reluctant to go to school due to the fear of punishment. Children living in the streets suffer more than others. In most cases, they live in the worst condition having no proper food and are vulnerable to different kinds of physical and mental abuse. Under these conditions, they are obliged to do anything for food. The government should take initiatives to provide adequate food to these hapless children. Allocation of budget for education should be increased to improve attendance of the children from hilly and coastal areas at school and to improve the infrastructure to ensure the quality of education. This is necessary because if they aren’t given proper education they will eventually end up being engaged in political activities.
Children should be employed in different professions according to their age. An evening school system needs to be established for working children. A survey is needed to find out the causes behind increasing number of children living in streets. The government must take expeditious steps to ensure their rights to health, education and shelter as project-based activities are not sufficient. One of the targets of Eight Millennium Goal Development (MDG) is to achieve universal primary education. The target means to assure that children including boys and girls should be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015.     But, considering the way things are going on, I don’t think that we will succeed in achieving this goal by 2015. Children are the shining stars of the future. If their childhood is spent in disgrace, we have to face a lot of unavoidable problems in near future.
Asif Azad Jisan
BRAC Business School
BRAC University

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BANGLADESH has a traditional view of politics. After a long struggle and sacrificing valuable lives we achieved our freedom. It started with the language movement of 1952, then, gradually, came the six-point demand of 1966, the mass uprising in 1969, the general election in 1970 and finally the liberation war in 1971. But 43 years after achieving the independence, what have we found? This question naturally arises. Who is responsible for this situation? Most people will say bad politics is responsible for this. They believe that this politics has impeded our progress towards any development. Now approximately 83 per cent young people are not interested in politics. Bangladesh has many political parties, who have differing ideologies. They cannot agree with each other on any political or national issues. That’s why political violence is escalating day by day. Parties are in a race for achieving power. In recent years, political violence has gone beyond anybody’s control. Children are also being used as tools in political violence. There are 57 million children in Bangladesh. Half of those children live below the poverty line. All children have basic rights to protection, education, health, nutrition and hygiene. But they face predicaments of different sorts that hamper their survival and development. Due to lack of proper guidance they get involved in crime. They get addicted to various drugs. Some political parties take these opportunities to involve them in political violence. Especially, street children are used in violence, because they are very cheap. They have no knowledge about the danger of violence. Hence, they are being used in political activities such as hartal, political possession, political assembly, meeting etc by different political parties. When they take part in political demonstrations they are at the risk of even losing their lives. The use of children for political gain must be stopped. I think that all political parties should be prevented from using children for political purposes. The government needs to shoulder the responsibility to ensure children’s protection from all sorts of violence. We all have a duty to ensure their food, shelter, protection, education, health, and nutrition. They must be protected from political disturbances. The court has given a ruling against use of children in political violence. The National Children’s Policy 2011stipulates, ‘Children cannot be used in political activities, neither could they be lured nor compelled to be involved in such activities’. Every political party should try to solve current problems through peaceful dialogues. I believe that a day will come, when young people will have their say about difficult situations for the government to listen to. Young people need to be empowered to become leaders and bring about positive changes in our country.
Avit Kumar Saha
Via e-mail

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THE misuse of children for political purposes is linked mainly to the way political parties conduct themselves in spearheading any movement in the 20th century. Organisations involving sports, culture, children and young people have became tools in the hand of national political and religious leaders.
There are over 57 million children in Bangladesh. This figure signifies that the number of children in Bangladesh is greater than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Although Bangladesh has a stable and growing economy, half of these children continue to live below the poverty line.
The issue of children’s use in politics recently came to light following the overwhelming presence of madrassah students at Hifazat-e Islam’s Dhaka siege programme on May 5 and a political rally at Motijheel the same day.
Children on a TV show insisted that leaders should be held responsible for using them for political gain. The issue has come under focus as in the last few months of 2013 when political violence peaked many children were hurt, physically and psychologically, by indirect and incidental violence. By applauding their peers during the TV show they tried to make the guests – the ministers, human rights activists and media members– aware of their feelings so that these senior people could feel what was going on in their mind.
New Age published a piece of news on December 11, 2013 that about 20 children died in violent activities involving arson attacks on roads and cars.
A parliamentary oversight panel has recommended that a specific provision be added to Children Act 2013 to prohibit the use of children as political tools.
It also recommended that the Act should stop child trafficking and the abuse that many children face in orphanages and educational institutions.
The government should be aware of this. Many laws can be made but their implementation is necessary. Last year we observed the harmful impact of using children in politics. The politicians should be cautious about it. If they use them, the masses will not support them. So they should bear it in their mind.
As politics is for the people of the country, the politicians should keep the children at a distance from politics.
Anjan Saha
Bangladesh University of Textiles
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BANGLADESH’S overall human rights situation worsened in 2012, as the government narrowed the political and civil society space, shielded abusive security forces from accountability, and ignored calls to reform laws and procedures in flawed war crimes and mutiny trials. The security forces disguised extrajudicial killings as ‘crossfire’ killings. Opposition members and political activists ‘disappeared’. Flawed trials of those accused of war crimes in the 1971 war of independence has continued. When Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh from persecution in Burma, the government pushed back boatloads of refugees, insisting that it had no obligation to provide any sanctuary to them.
Child abandonment is the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring in an extralegal way with the intent of never again resuming or reasserting them. Causes include many social and cultural factors as well as mental illness. An abandoned child is called a foundling (as opposed to a runaway or an orphan). Baby dumping refers to parents (generally mothers) abandoning or discarding a child younger than 12 months in a public or private place with the intent of disposing them.
Sabrina Islam
Independent University Bangladesh

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OUR constitution allows us the freedom to express our opinion on politics. The objective of this article is to open our heart and express our feelings to help in the decision making process. It will be of no help if our politicians promise to build a bridge over a dry field where there is no river. Our politicians are now coming up with such promises now. Their political rhetoric that children are the future leaders of the country sounds hollow nowadays as children are being used in political processions and hartal now. During hartal, they are engaged in torching buses, cars and shops, and even in throwing petrol bombs and so on. It is only bad politics that they are learning now. If you ask them questions about Tomoddin Mojlis, United Front, the Six-point Movement, the Mass Uprising of 1969 and the war of liberation they won’t be able to answer any question. So, what can our country expect from such children who are learning bad politics from different political parties? Ultimately, they are learning to proceed with sticks rather than knowledge.
Using children in politics should be viewed as a mission to destroy Bangladesh. Today’s children are the fathers of tomorrow. But hartal gives these unprivileged children a golden opportunity to earn money and food in exchange for engaging in destructive political activities. Children who are deprived of their rights to education, health and shelter are now being dragged into political demonstrations. They are now being trained in the politics of destruction and being turned into terrorists by some unscrupulous politicians. Needless to say, this training won’t help them to become ideal politicians. Children from roads and slums are the main victims of political interference. Stringent enforcement of rules is also not enough to eliminate this new national problem. Only honest and sincere political leaders having plenty of knowledge, information and experiences can resolve this problem. Before attaining a certain age, none should be allowed to enter politics.
Sulaiman Husain
Chakaria, Cox’s Bazar

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