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October 5, 2003 

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Good governance and rights of the child

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury

Good governance is one of the lucrative subjects of civil society and academician in our country. Everyone feels the necessity of good governance as it fulfils democracy. However, you would find an askance note in the face of many, if you speak of good governance for children. It is considered as a matter of adults as subject matter is pedantic.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) simply asserts human rights of a child. Even though we forget this truth quite frequently, UNCRC clarifies it most distinctively. UNCRC bears the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to the core. Fortunately, Bangladesh is one of those forty-five countries, which ratified it at the very beginning.

Moreover, we could feel proud of lawmakers of our country who thought of children even before the ratification of UNCRC. Children Act 1974 evident our commitment towards children that forbids juvenile offender from the company of adults. After 6 years, UNCRC had started to sing in the same tune. Despite various efforts and promises, has the condition of our children been improved significantly?

Article 37 of UNCRC states that every child deprived of his or her liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest to do so. Article 51(2), Children Act 1974 declared it well before. Ironically, the reality is that children are often kept in prison with adults unlawfully. So, where is the problem? We have the laws and our government is democratic and committed about children in particular case. The only answer could be good governance still doesn't persist here.

Similarly, primary education has been made compulsory and free for all. It has been reflected in Article 28(a) of UNCRC- States Parties recognise the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall in particular: make primary education compulsory and free for all.

Still, a good number of children are deprived from primary education. Article 17 (c) of the Constitution states- the state shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of removing illiteracy within such time as may be determined by law. Dropout rate is however, high in primary education and illiteracy-free Bangladesh is still a dream even after 32 years of independence.

Government provides stipend for female students, but there are a lot of allegation of irregularities and corruption. Though resources and energy have been employed, mission fails due to lack of good governance largely.

Transparency International ranks Bangladesh as the topmost corrupt country in the world. While police stands top, lower court is found next to the police in corruption. Certainly children who engaged in conflict with law are in a state of helplessness since two key actors of juvenile justice system are most corrupt.. If those institutions are in such a vulnerable state, who would bell the cat?

To recapitulate, children are in vulnerable condition due to the absence of good governance. They are not only being deprived of the right of education assigned by the Constitution, a good number of them are engaged in the worst from of child labours. Bad companions sometimes make them involved in criminal activities and consequently pass their time in prison where there is no hope for them. Therefore, good governance is essential for the establishment of rights of the child.

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury is an employee Save the Children, Sweden- Denmark.

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