Welcoming Children Act 2013
Chile's Nobel Prize winning poet, Gabriela Minstral said in one of his speech “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait, the child cannot, right now is the time his bourses are being formed, his blood is being mode and his senses are "being developed". To him, we cannot answer tomorrow. His name is “Today”. Thus children being an important asset, every effort should be made to provide them equal opportunities for development so that they become robust citizens physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy endowed with the skills and motivations need the societies. The Neglected children and juveniles fall an easy prey to criminality. The adolescents claim the highest share in violence due to dashing nature, lack of foresight, uncritical enthusiasm, physical strength, endurance and desire for adventure. Though the juveniles are innocent, curious, full of hope, belongs to thrill, aspirations, ambitious but they are also vulnerable. As juveniles are the member of vulnerable section, utmost sincerity and best care should be provided to them through laws and policies. The edifice of juvenile justice system in Bangladesh is founded on the Children Act 1974 and this is the sole instrument to deal the juvenile delinquency. Unfortunately, most of the provisions of the Children Act, 1974 and the Children Rules, 1976 are not exercised in Bangladesh. The Children Act, 1974 suffers some inherent weaknesses and after the 40 years it has lost its applicability. Even The aims and standards maintained in the local legislation in Bangladesh do not in every aspect show the resemblance of the standards and aims contemplated by the International Conventions. Thus to amend the children Act was the demand of time to met the present situations specially regarding the age limit of juvenile, insufficient child court, inefficacious post trail treatment system. An updated children Act urged by the legal experts and NGO's for long time. Finally last week the cabinet has given their final approval for Children Act 2013.
According to Children Act, 1974 the age limit of juvenile is 16. Interestingly, In Bangladesh there are number of laws which defined a child. These laws are conflicting regarding the age of children. Some defined a child as a person below 12 years, others state below 14 years and some defined them as a person below 18 years of age. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defined child as any person under the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, maturity is attained earlier. Now The Children Act 2013 ensures those below the age of 18 would be regarded as children.
Beside this, a very encouraging provision has been inserted in the Children Act, 2013, under the new law Child Court will be set up at every district under the law. Children Welfare Funds will be constituted at the national, district and upazila levels and desk on child affairs will be formed at each police station headed by a police officer. Moreover it includes, cruelty towards the children will be punished by five years in jail and a fine of Tk 100,000, the acts of hitting, neglecting or leaving a child in an insecure condition will be deemed as 'torture'. Again, if someone forces or encourages a child to beg or leads him to do something illegal, the person will get a five-year jail term and slapped a fine of Tk 100,000. If a custodian gets intoxicated while handling a child, it will be considered a crime and that person will be sentenced to one year in jail and fined Tk 50,000. If someone uses or compels a child to carry or transport drugs or illegal contraband, he will be put behind bars for three years and fined Tk 100,000 If anyone encourages a child to gamble, that person will be jailed for up to two years and fined Tk 50,000. The Secretary said if anyone assists a child flee his home, he will be sentenced to one year in jail and fined Tk 50,000.
In addition to, the Act elaborately mentions about measures for care of children, including institutional care for the deprived ones and it will be considered a crime if the children are forced to attend any rallies.
In essence, upcoming Children Act will cover lacunas of earlier one. Nevertheless, ultimate success of the Act will depend on the proper implementation and now at least we can hope for so!
The writer is senior Lecturer of Law, BGC Trust University Chittagong.